In late November, Christian Brothers University president John Smarrelli, along with Rhodes president Bill Troutt and University of Memphis president David Rudd, signed a statement of support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the undocumented students who are protected under the law.
However, CBU’s support of undocumented students is not relegated only to a signature. Last year, CBU pledged $12 million over seven years to expand its Latino Student Success Program, which was recognized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. After statements by president-elect Donald Trump calling for the reversal of the DACA program and the deportation of all undocumented immigrants, CBU’s commitment has taken on greater significance.
Dr. Anne Kenworthy, vice president of enrollment at CBU, said statements made by Trump were “deeply concerning to our students and their families.”
Such statements suggest a drastic shift in immigration policy during the Trump administration. Students who are protected by the DACA policy are at risk of losing their protected status, which would put them at risk of being deported, many to countries that they cannot remember. Kenworthy reported that several students have told CBU staff that their families are encouraging them to drop out of college to work to save money in case they are deported.
“It’s terrible that they have to be so fearful, particularly if it leads to a permanent interruption in their education,” she said.
“The life-changing impacts of a great education are perhaps most pointedly felt among the kind of students who would suffer the most under unwelcome immigration policies; these young people are typically among the first in their family to attend college, and therefore they have the most to gain from receiving a degree that unlocks their full potential.”
The Latino Student Success Program includes financial support in the form of scholarships funded by private donors to close the tuition gap for undocumented students who are ineligible for federal grants and state monies like the Tennessee Hope Scholarship as well as outreach for all Latino students and the benefits of a partnership with Latino Memphis.
Members of the administration, including President Smarrelli, have met with CBU students who are worried about the impact of the election on their immigration status.
“The most meaningful thing we can do for our students is make sure they complete their education here at CBU. We have reiterated to them that we support them unconditionally and that they are valued members of the CBU community,” Kensworthy said.
“Until we have a clearer idea of the new President’s policy priorities related to immigration and higher education, we are doing everything we can do to advocate to federal lawmakers how important it is that they support immigrant students and their families. Regardless of their immigration status, all of Memphis’ children deserve a great education and all of Memphis benefits when they receive one. CBU intends to continue to do its part to fulfill that vision, no matter what.”