WASHINGTON — More than two dozen undocumented students at Catholic colleges sent a letter Feb. 5 to 79 members of Congress who graduated from Catholic colleges and universities, urging them not to cut off funding for the president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

"We ask you, as a fellow alumnus of a Catholic higher education institution, to refrain from taking legislative actions that fail to recognize our humanity," the letter said.

"There is an alternative. Enable us, successful students and valued members of the United States workforce, with the opportunity to continue to serve our community, country, and the world as we have been taught to do so by our Catholic education," it said.

The U.S. Senate is currently debating a Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, approved by the House in mid-January, with an amendment to revoke the DACA program.

DACA, created by President Barack Obama in 2012, provides undocumented students with relief from deportation and the authorization to work but does not confer citizenship or provide access to federal aid. In late November Obama expanded the program to parents of U.S. citizens or green-card holders who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years. It is known as DAPA, for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.

The students' letter pointed out to members of Congress that they had the luxury to "go to school, and work in the country you considered home without the constant fear of deportation."

"Each one of us is undocumented" and benefits from the DACA program, the students wrote, adding that the program has "given us hope, allowing us to study at Catholic colleges and universities, and an opportunity to contribute to the country that we call home."

"For those of us who have graduated, we are now better prepared to actively engage in our communities and add to our country's economy," the students said, adding that "as adults we seek nothing but the chance to contribute to the country that we have called home for most of our lives."

The students represent 11 Catholic universities, including Georgetown University in Washington; Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington; Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles; Loyola University Chicago; Marquette University in Milwaukee; St. Peter's University in Jersey City, New Jersey; Santa Clara University in California; Seattle University; University of Detroit-Mercy; University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana; and the University of San Francisco.

The letter was organized by the Ignatian Solidarity Network in partnership with undocumented students and alumni and partners at Catholic colleges and universities.

In November 2014, the U.S. Jesuit Conference released a statement showing general support for the Obama administration's executive action announcement that included the DAPA program, an extension of DACA. Four years ago, the Jesuit provincials of the United States issued a public letter to congressional leaders and Obama calling for passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that included a path to citizenship for undocumented persons in the U.S.

Last year, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine became the first U.S. university to publicly accept undocumented medical students.

During debates on the Senate floor the first week of February, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, specifically mentioned students enrolled at Loyola's medical school, stressing the sacrifices they have made and their willingness to give back to their communities.