The DREAMers I know

Por en English 12/20/12 1:20pm
The DREAMers I know are hard-working, humble individuals. Image by Chris Ware

Sometimes, you read a news article and wonder, “Who the heck is that reporter writing about?”

So I felt while reading Ruben Navarrette’s nationally syndicated column this morning, “DREAMers are pushing their luck.

In the piece, Navarrette blasts America’s DREAM Act students as self-important “spoiled brats” who are “drunk on entitlement” and deserve a “scolding” for Christmas. He suggests that the DREAMers hold themselves above “the hardworking and humble folks who cut your lawn, clean your house or care for your kids” and ask for too much reform from the federal government.

“These kids are just not that special anymore,” Navarrette concludes. “That is, except to themselves.”

Au contraire, mon frère, these young folks are extraordinary human beings. I know because I covered them extensively last year while working as an immigration reporter at Phoenix New Times.

I don’t recognize the people Navarrette is talking about, partly because he’s alluding to a reality I don’t believe exists and partly because he neglects to name a single pampered DREAMer.

The DREAMers I’ve met are smart, hard-working and humble, much less entitled than almost anyone I know, though there is considerable frustration with the American political process. After all, the DREAM Act, which had President Obama’s support, was supported by majorities in both houses — but isn’t law due to the arcane filibuster deployed by Senate Republicans.

Instead of identifying a specific DREAMer, Navarrette goes after United We Dream, the national political organization run by DREAMers for DREAMers. But even that clashes with some of his other claims. Navarrette cherry-picks some of the organization’s policy demands, including the following:

“Fair treatment for DREAMers and our families and communities, including a road map to citizenship for 11 million Americans without papers and an end to senseless deportations and abuses.

An end to excessive and costly immigration enforcement policies which separate families and divide communities, such as ‘Secure Communities,’ E-Verify, 287G, and roadside checkpoints”

Navarrette drips sarcasm all over the DREAMers, patronizing them in the following sentences: “Gee, kids, can we get you anything else? Maybe free massages the next time you stage a sit-in? These kids want it all.”

Moving right along, Navarrette contradicts himself by saying that DREAMers only care about themselves while also quoting their national platform, which makes clear they’re concerned about their “families and communities,” the 11 million “Americans without papers.”

Perhaps he didn’t understand what he was reading: United We Dream was talking about the DREAMers’ undocumented parents and others who are “the hardworking and humble folks who cut your lawn, clean your house or care for your kids.”

Don’t believe me that the DREAMers are extraordinary people? Go read my story about Angelica Hernandez, an undocumented valedictorian in electrical engineering at Arizona State University. Or check out Undocumented Inc., a cover story I wrote about DREAM Act students who have started their own small businesses.

In that piece I highlighted Lilly Romo, a talented young woman who couldn’t attend nursing school because she lacked a social security number, so she started her own English school; Celso Mireles, an ASU graduate who listened to President Obama deliver the commencement speech at ASU in 2009 then went to work Colorado alfalfa fields days later; or Dulce Matuz, then a real estate agent who is currently President of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition. She was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine this spring.

At one point, Dulce and I were talking about the thought process behind becoming an entrepreneur and she said:

“I haven’t asked government for anything, and I [haven't needed] to ask for anything. That’s the American dream.”

Those are the DREAMers I know.