In 2017, when DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was initially repealed by the Trump administration, Bellarmine held a DACA Day of Awareness, where students came to the amphitheater during lunch and received information about the program and listened to immigrant students’ experiences of growing up in a country where their futures are uncertain. Now, two years later, as DACA’s future is being decided by the Supreme Court, the Campus Ministry and Diversity program put on a vigil to once again lift up students’ voices and bring people together in solidarity for all DACA recipients nationwide.
For those who don’t know, DACA is a program initiated during the Obama administration. It allows eligible children of undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation and find education/work in America. President Obama had plans to expand the program but was thwarted by lawsuits from 26 Republican-led states, as well as an eventual tie in the neutrally-stacked Supreme Court. This ultimately caused stagnation and the expansion was discontinued. Upon election, Donald Trump rescinded DACA, prompting immediate backlash and multiple lawsuits which are now going up against a Supreme Court that now includes the conservative additions of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. It is not an understatement to say that over 800,000 lives, including lives at Bellarmine, hang in the balance.
The vigil opened with a short talk by Mr. Pinkston about DACA and the Society of Jesus’s stance on it. He reiterated that the Jesuits have called for the government to not abandon so many people who have been living and working in their communities, who often never knew a home other than the United States. He stated that “they embody the best of our school, country, and community.”
After a talk by Mr. Jimenez, Roberto Davila ’21 stepped forward and told the story of when his parents came to the United States without papers when he was four. They were living in a small town in Mexico and decided amongst the increasing presence of violent gangs that they needed to escape. Roberto has lived in America for most of his life but could face deportation if DACA is repealed.
He pointed out Donald Trump’s characterization of immigrants as criminals and rapists, a stance he is still trying to justify with lies, and asked the audience to consider who Trump was talking about with those words. Not some other person, but a student who works alongside everyone else. If you know Roberto, you would know that he is kind, caring, creative, and one of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting while at Bellarmine. In face of being deported back to a country that he has no memory of, he says those helped by DACA are “pushing forward every day, with one thing ringing in their hearts. Hope.”
The event concluded with a prayer and the soothing saxophone music of Mason Phoenix ’20, but not before Mrs. Maloney offered the students and faculty the opportunity to put a butterfly on a wire that extended upwards to the third floor. She said that these butterflies symbolize the hope that we have, the hope that people living in this country under DACA can continue to soar and flourish. The exhibit is still in the amphitheater today for all to see. Everyone was also given smaller butterfly pins to carry the message from the vigil throughout the day, even after it was over. As Mr. Pinkston said, “A vigil is a vigilant watch, a peaceful demonstration. The reason for our [watch] is in defense for DACA.”
If you want to learn more about DACA, you can visit the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s page for statistics, resources, and their mission.