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Creighton calling: Students, faculty, staff make calls urging Congress to take DACA action

By 10:30 Thursday morning, two and a half hours into an effort by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities to urge Congress into right action on legislation protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors, Creighton University students, staff and faculty had already logged more than 130 calls to their representatives around the country.

From a 10-person phone bank at the fireplace in the Skutt Student Center, a steady buzz echoed through the building as a gathering stream of Creighton volunteers placed calls to Congress and asked others to do the same. The message: tell Washington immediate DREAM Act (legislation that would help childhood arrivals gain conditional residency) protections are needed for young immigrants who qualify, before their status in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals expires March 5.

“I know a lot of people who are living with DACA status and not feeling very protected right now,” said Jesus Yañez, a junior from Denver and the diversity and inclusion coordinator for the Creighton Students Union, who was busy dialing senators and representatives in his home state. “When DACA was rescinded last year, it left a lot of people in a very difficult, very frightening position. When the idea that you could lose that status at any time is hanging over your head, you can’t succeed in school, you can’t succeed in your job. We’re asking Congress to do the right thing and restore those protections.”

With about 800,000 people across the nation qualified for DACA status, including about 4,000 people in Nebraska, the Trump administration’s move to shutter the policy in September has meant that as many as 1,000 people per day are losing that status and the protections that went with it and are open to being deported back to countries they left when they were just a few months or years old. Those ranks include students and workers who have only known a life in the U.S.

In a University-wide statement issued Wednesday, Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, put out a call for the University community to unite with 19 other AJCU members to make the push for calling representatives and imploring them to act soon on DACA and the Dreamers. Fr. Hendrickson also reiterated Creighton’s institutional commitment to its students who fall under DACA protections.

“Creighton University is committed to supporting our DACA students, and we reaffirm our commitment to standing with them in this time of uncertainty,” Fr. Hendrickson wrote. “Any change in the DACA program will not affect our students’ status as members of our community in any way.”

Students, staff and faculty heeded the call with abandon. Student volunteers scoured the Skutt Student Center for willing callers, even going so far as to stand in line for customers waiting to order at the Skutt Starbucks so those patrons could make a quick call before enjoying their coffee.

Freshman Perry Worden of Kansas City, Missouri, said most of the calls he made to his Congressional delegation were greeted with receptive ears eager to pass his message along.

“It’s something I believe in,” said Worden, who is with the Creighton Students Union Board of Representatives, which had several members staffing phones. “It’s something we all believe in and it’s an urgent situation for many people. I just wanted to do what I could and hopefully we’ll see something happen in Congress soon. When you’re talking about 1,000 young people a day living under the possibility of deportation for coming here as children, it’s something we just cannot allow to happen.”

Creighton’s mission was palpable in the effort and to join with other AJCU members in the campaign reinforced the University’s affirmative stance on protecting the young people under DACA’s protection.

“Our students’ learning and wellbeing has been disrupted by this and every day there’s more uncertainty,” said Kelly Tadeo-Orbik, associate director of the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice, who helped organize the campaign. “This is the continuation of a fight that Creighton has been a part of for two years now, and it’s been a long fight but the time has come. It’s a desperate time, but it’s also a hopeful time and it’s great that we’ve seen the response that we have.”

As more students fanned out to canvass for willing callers, Yañez studied a map that had been placed near the calling bank, marked with pins to show the various Congressional districts that had been called. Pastel pins poked out of the map from northern California to Chicago, from Minnesota to Texas.

By the end of the day, the Creighton community at the phone bank had logged 570 calls and more calls were made by people who agreed to make calls from home or the office.

“It’s great to see how Creighton has picked up this movement and done so from the very beginning,” he said. “There’s a lot of energy here. There’s a feeling, cautiously optimistic, I’d say, that something will happen. Something for the good.”


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