An Open Letter to Ruben Navarrette

Yadira Garcia, left, of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, holds up a sign in protest as she joins young immigrants as they sit
Yadira Garcia, left, of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, holds up a sign in protest as she joins young immigrants as they sit in the waiting area of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012, in Phoenix. Brewer's order issued Wednesday says she's reaffirming the intent of current Arizona law denying taxpayer-funded public benefits and state identification to illegal immigrants. Young illegal immigrants could start applying Wednesday with the federal government for work permits under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program defers deportations for young illegal immigrants if they meet certain criteria. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Dear Ruben Navarrette,

I respect your right to express yourself, however I wish you had thought more critically in your columns, "DREAMers are pushing their luck" and "If I offended demanding DREAMers, I'm not sorry."

In your first column you state, "They [DREAMers] don caps and gowns and disrupt committee hearings and occupy the offices of members of Congress... They're not realistic, or respectful. They don't ask. They demand."

I beg your pardon. As far I have been aware, we have been asking for changes to the immigration system for the past decade. As you know, not much has happened.

Personally I have lobbied both of my senators, Kay Hagan and Richard Burr of North Carolina, countless times to help pass meaningful legislation that addresses the broken immigration system. However, they have done the opposite and voted against the DREAM Act on December 18th, 2010.

So, yes, we have asked our representatives, senators as well as the president, multiple times to do something about the broken immigration system.

What options do people have when they are being used politically?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn't happen because politicians wanted to fix the wrong this country had done against African Americans. No. African Americans realized that speaking for themselves was the best way to advocate and get legislation passed. I'm sure African Americans were also told that they thought themselves "entitled" to rights that some thought they shouldn't have.

Likewise, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals did not happen because President Obama woke up one day and decided it was the right thing to do. Apart from its appeal to Latino voters, it was mostly pressure from immigration activists that made it possible, including some who did civil disobediences.

While I haven't gotten arrested, this type of advocacy has empowered me to speak up for myself.

I used to be a "good DREAMer," keeping my head down (as you recommend we do), never revealing to strangers I was undocumented and letting others speak for me. However, I came to realize that I am my most effective advocate and that there is special interest from all sides of the political spectrum to leave the immigration system as it is.

Actually, I think that the main reason the immigration debate has been kept alive for the past few years is because of "demanding" DREAMers and their different tactics.

Mr. Navarrette, the "hardworking and humble folks who cut your lawn, clean your house or care for your kids" are my family. Not once have I thought myself better than hardworking immigrants and that I therefore deserve to fix my status first. You know why? Because they sacrifice so much of themselves so that their families make ends meet, a sacrifice that we all reap as cheap products.

When the immigration debate happens it must include the hardworking people that you talk about. This I'm sure most people agree on, demanding DREAMer or not.

Maybe the one thing that makes me a "spoiled brat" is that I am one of the lucky few that is receiving a postsecondary education. There doesn't go a day that I don't recognize this privilege, which should be a right for all, and how many of my friends back home are not getting an education because of their immigration status.

But with this educational privilege, I have sacrificed the opportunity to see my parents and younger sister for the past five years. They moved back to Guatemala when I was a freshman in high school, due to my father's order of deportation for missing an immigration appointment while trying to fix his immigration status. I have also sacrificed not knowing or seeing two of my siblings, grandmother, aunts and uncles for the past 15 years.

Talk about being a "spoiled brat."

My story of separation is not unique. There are many others out there with similar stories.

If there is someone who needs to realize how good he has it, it is you, Mr. Navarrette.

In your follow-up column you quote a reader who said, "Speaking for myself ... at this point I am done asking. I demand to be fully incorporated into this society."

I, in fact, know where this comment came from on Facebook. I was struck with your response to the DREAMer's comment on the Facebook thread, "Oh, and 11 years, really? My family has been here for 6 generations. You've been here for 6 minutes. And, as an illegal immigrant, you don't get to DEMAND anything. And when you do, you hurt the cause of people -- also undocumented -- who have been here longer, worked harder, and deserve better."

Your comment is troubling because it implies that we don't deserve to ask for anything, not even the dignity for our hardworking families because we haven't been here long enough.

I wonder who else said that back in this country's history.

As a "demanding" and "spoiled brat" I just wish you had thought more critically in both of your pieces.


Emilio Vicente