By Duane Paul Murphy
The Catholic University of America has recently been providing support for students impacted by both immigration laws such as Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and natural disasters like Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. This is in large part due to a strong presence of Puerto Rican students and citizens from foreign nations currently studying or working on campus, as well as social teaching from the Catholic Church.
On Tuesday, February 13th, University President John Garvey announced that Catholic Charities and CASA will offer assistance and support to the immigrant communities on campus. Catholic Charities will offer individual D.C. and Maryland resources for employees affected by recent immigration changes under President Trump, including the termination of DACA. CASA, a national immigration legal services organization, will provide services for those affected by DACA and other foreign nationals with temporary protected status.
“I want you to know that the University has established a working group (from Human Resources, Campus Ministry, Student Affairs, the Provost’s office, and the General Counsel’s office) with responsibility for keeping current on immigration matters, and ensuring that we are doing all we can to support and provide resources to our faculty, staff, and students,” Garvey said in the email.
This is not the first time Garvey has taken a stance on issues affecting foreign nationals on campus. In February of 2017, Garvey released a statement concerned about President Trump’s executive order to indefinitely ban Syrian refugees from entering the country, suspend refugee admissions into the country for 120 days, and block citizens from several Muslim majority countries, such as Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, from entering the United States for 90 days.
Garvey hoped that the Trump administration would “promote the common good of our citizens, including our national security, without departing from our nation’s great tradition of welcoming persons of good will who seek to make a better life here.”
Catholic University has also provided supporting resources to those impacted by natural disasters. Last November, the university decided to waive a semester’s worth of tuition and fees for up to forty Puerto Rican students who wished to continue their own education on the mainland. Other universities nationwide such as St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida and Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana also offered free tuition for the spring semester of 2018.
One of the students benefiting from this offering from the university is Hector Bencosme Perez of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, located west on the island.
“I decided to attend CUA because of their program to support Puerto Rican students,” Perez said. “CUA was well spoken of by a good friend of mine who attended CUA until last semester. Ultimately I asked myself, why not?”
Perez, who is studying software engineering, has also described support from the Puerto Rican student community on campus as “amazing”.
“Everyone is so nice and we can spend time like we have known each other for years. It’s the dose of back home that I need sometimes,” Perez said.
Perez’s roommate from Puerto Rico, Christian Guzman Torres, shared similar sentiments.
“The PR student community on campus has been very nice and helpful,” Torres said. “They helped me settle into the campus quicker and showed me a few cool places from D.C.”