Jesuit Universities Release Study on Undocumented Students in Higher Education
Tags: education, Fairfield University, higher education, immigration, Jesuit, jesuits, Loyola University Chicago, Santa Clara University, Society of Jesus, video
By Doris Yu
At the age of five, Abimael (AJ) Bastida journeyed with his family into the U.S. from Mexico with only one shoe, the other one lost while he crossed the Rio Grande. Today, a graduate of Santa Clara University in California and a second-year law student, Bastida is just one of many undocumented students who traveled to the nation’s capital on Feb. 26 for the release of a new study, “Immigration: Undocumented Students in Higher Education.”
Prepared by Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life in collaboration with Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research and Learning and Santa Clara University, the study proposes a new model of leadership in higher education, particularly for the undocumented. The study examined students at Jesuit colleges and universities who had been brought to the U.S. as young children by parents who either overstayed a legal visa or entered the country without the authorization of the federal government.
Before a crowd that included the presidents of 12 Jesuit universities, representatives from 11 Senate offices and more than 50 students, Bastida recounted his harrowing story and the role that Jesuit education played in providing him with the opportunity to fulfill his dream of succeeding in college.
The study was made possible by a $200,000 two-year grant from the Ford Foundation. Jesuit Father Richard Ryscavage, project director for the study, said he was most surprised by “how shadowy and informal the network is in our schools for helping these students … It’s great, but it’s very fragile … the students don’t know who to trust.”
According to panelists at the event, undocumented students are often deterred from pursuing their dreams due to a lack of assistance and information about the opportunities available to them. A lucky few, like Bastida, find mentors to lead them through the process, but many more fall through the cracks.
The study explored current structures that support or challenge the higher education of undocumented students; best practices and strategies for ensuring their eventual success; a potential collaborative model for helping students as they move through their university years; and issues these students face after graduation. The study also included a moral argument, anchored in Catholic social teaching, for better meeting the needs of undocumented students.
Yesterday’s event follows a recent statement signed by the presidents of 25 Jesuit colleges and universities pledging their support to the education and care of undocumented students.
For more information and to access the full report, visit Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life.