In the wake of the election, many people—both at Boston College and at schools around the country—are concerned about how undocumented students will be impacted by a Trump presidency. Undocumented students are currently protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order implemented by President Obama in 2012. DACA temporarily shields those who entered the country as minors from deportation, allowing them to attend school or be eligible for a work permit.
However, Trump strongly opposes DACA and will likely attempt to end it once inaugurated. In a time of fear and uncertainty, the BC administration is under increased pressure to act in support of undocumented students on campus.
On Nov. 30, BC announced that Fr. Leahy had signed two statements in support of the continuation of DACA, one from Pomona College and one from the Association of Catholic Colleges & Universities (ACCU).
“Boston College is committed to supporting all of its students,” said Fr. Leahy in the released statement. “The DACA program has benefitted students at Boston College, and they have contributed greatly to the life of our community.”
While Leahy’s actions are a step in the right direction, some students feel that he needs to go further in protecting undocumented students at BC. The group Eradicate BC Racism (Eradicate) analyzed the statements that Fr. Leahy has signed in order to break down what they mean and how they impact the BC community.
Pomona College’s statement says that “DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded”. However, Eradicate’s analysis concludes that Fr. Leahy’s support of this statement ultimately results in “no concrete action for students”.
Kevin Ferreira, LSOE ‘19, and member of Eradicate, argues that support of Pomona’s statement is essentially “saying ‘Hey, new administration, please keep this program.’ It has nothing to do with the school.”
Eradicate did conclude, however, that ACCU’s statement holds more relevance to BC’s campus. Fr. Leahy, along with others who have signed the statement, “pledge to support these students—through our campus counseling and ministry support, through legal resources from those campuses with law schools and legal clinics, and through whatever other services we may have at our disposal.”
However, Eradicate argues that Fr. Leahy and the BC administration need to take more action in supporting undocumented students. Fr. Leahy noticeably did not sign a statement by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities which vows to “protect to the fullest extent of the law undocumented students on our campuses”. BC is the only Jesuit institution, out of 28 total members, not to support the AJCU’s statement.
Eradicate’s Amelie Daigle, a 4th year MCAS doctoral student, is also unsatisfied with the administration’s action, or lack thereof.
“This isn’t the time to be half-protecting undocumented students,” says Daigle. “This isn’t the time to be hesitant. The university has an opportunity to speak out against the policies Donald Trump has promised to support. I’m concerned the university isn’t using the full extent of its power to speak out.”
Ferreira agreed that the administration needs to take action to physically protect those at BC who are undocumented. “Say Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) wants to come on campus,” he explains. “Right now, BC could allow them to do that.”
Ferreira, Daigle, and other Eradicate members support initiatives pushing to make BC a sanctuary campus. Hundreds of members of the BC community have signed a petition asking the administration to declare a sanctuary campus, which takes specific steps to support and protect undocumented students and faculty.
The petition pushes for the administration to take 16 actions, falling under four main categories: “protect all students, faculty, and staff from unprecedented targeting,” “reaffirm the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion,” “provide holistic legal, financial, and mental health services,” and “adopt a transparent policy of not factoring the immigration status of applicants to any Boston College program into admissions decisions and ensuring that once admitted, undocumented students receive the same financial support guarantees that any other student would have”.
On Dec. 1, Eradicate led a walkout in support of both the Cosecha Movement, a national movement in support of sanctuary campuses, and BC’s own sanctuary campus petition. Many students joined the group on O’Neill Plaza to stand in solidarity and express their position to the rest of the student body and to the administration.
Daigle explained that “[the petition] is widely representative of the feelings of students and faculty, and [through the walkout] we were giving students a place to physically put their bodies in support of that petition”.
By continuing to serve as allies of undocumented students, many members of the BC community—including Eradicate, those who signed in support of sanctuary campuses, and many others—are showing Fr. Leahy and the BC administration that more action must be taken on this issue, and that it should be taken as soon as possible.
Ferreira concluded that “Jesuits have a long history of supporting immigrants’ rights, so this seems like a natural place that the school can take a stand”.