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Findings from Ford Foundation-Backed Study on Undocumented Immigrant Students Unveiled in Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013
Research conducted by Fairfield University, Loyola University Chicago, and Santa Clara University, adds to debate on policies for undocumented students
WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 26, 2013 – Like any student, A.J. Bastida was thrilled the day he learned that he would be one of four high-achieving students to receive a scholarship to attend Santa Clara University in California’s Silicon Valley. But unlike others, this scholarship was virtually his only chance to attend college – because from the age of 5, A.J. had lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant, making other forms of financing or aid unavailable to him.
Now pursuing a law degree at SCU and a grateful recipient of the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Bastida spoke Tuesday about the many challenges and occasional triumphs of pursuing higher education as an undocumented student.
“I am a true testament to what Jesuit education really means,” said Bastida.
In an effort to understand and help students like A.J., about 150 Jesuit university and college presidents, students, faculty, administrators and representatives from Congress member’s and Senator’s offices attended an event Tuesday titled “Immigration: Undocumented Students in Higher Education.”
At the event, held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, researchers from three universities unveiled a new Immigrant Student National Position Paper, which included findings about the obstacles faced by undocumented students, as well as recommendations for new practices, procedures, and a model of leadership in higher education regarding access to education, particularly for the undocumented.
“At the heart of the Immigrant Student National Position Paper is a call for improved institutional practices at Jesuit institutions in the United States to help these young people flourish on campus and off,” said project leader Richard Ryscavage, S.J., a Jesuit priest, sociology professor and director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield University. “Ultimately, this project presents a way of proceeding on this area of immigration that informs and helps shape the national educational discourse. Our findings revealed that a pathway to citizenship will not solve all of the challenges these student face. Additional policies that address the needs of the students as well as their families are critical.”
Among the findings:
*Inability to reach potential: In the U.S. today, many bright, talented, and motivated young men and women who are undocumented find themselves prevented from developing their full potential and limited in their ability to contribute to the civic life of their surroundings.
*Support reform of U.S. immigration law that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented students. A majority of Jesuit presidents have already signed a document supporting this path.
Of the 65,000 undocumented American students who graduate high school annually, roughly 5 to 10 percent enter post-secondary education. A handful at the top of their class are awarded merit-based scholarships or find a way to finance attendance at a Jesuit institution, which have a longstanding history of serving immigrants.
The presidents of 24 institutions from the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) recently signed a moral statement, pledging their support to the education and care of undocumented students. Many were at the event to support these individuals who were 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.
Researchers hope to model best practices for other Catholic or private universities for this vulnerable population. Federal law does not prohibit the admission of undocumented students to public universities or colleges; states may admit or bar undocumented students from enrolling as a matter of policy or through legislation.
“If the whole Jesuit system of higher education were to become fully engaged in the challenges and issues of undocumented students, perhaps private, public and Catholic colleges and universities could be emboldened to do so as well,” said Ryscavage.
The study was conducted via in-depth interviews with undocumented students, community advocates and university staff members, and examined undocumented students’ complex lives across the 28 American Jesuit colleges and universities.
For more information, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/cfpl/cfpl_immigrant.html.