I dream of wearing a sign. Something like, “I’m so sorry. We want you here.” Sueno de tener un letrero que dice, “Lo siento mucho. Les queremos Uds. aquí.” Quiero decir, “No se vayan.” I want to say don’t go. Quiero decir que millónes mas gente no le votó como ellos que votaron para él, nuestro “residente.” I want to say three million more people voted against him than voted for him, our “resident” en la casa blanca. Quiero decir esto es su país, también. This is your country, too. Please don’t go. I speak to my favorite flower vendor, watch him take it all on his broad shoulders, this weighted world. I see him shrug, something I’ve admired for years, the way so often someone who grows up in Mexico can make so much room inside themselves for acceptance. “Vivimos la vida que viene,” he says. We live the life that comes.
I remember sitting in the courtyard, during that same conference call with Sylvia Boorstein, looking at the magenta blossoms on my sprawling succulent in the orange pot. The blooms sprang to life the morning after our terrible windstorm, the greater part of a day and a night, gusts from 70 to 80 miles per hour, the worst I’ve lived through. Through it all I was working on a deadline to develop a website for my July writing retreat. It was impossible for me to give it my undivided attention. No matter what I did I couldn’t separate myself from my fear. The walls of my trailer shook and rattled in the wind. I said metta. I prayed all of us would be safe and unharmed–all the birds and small wild things, me and my neighbors inside our tin cans. But the next morning, when I saw how my succulent had burst into wild magenta bloom in spite of that terrible onslaught, that unbelievable battering, I thought, we need to be like this succulent. We need to respond to what is playing out now on our national stage with our own bright blossoming. Indeed, in the pink pussycat hats, the women’s marches, the way our judicial system is responding, the immigration protests, the country is doing just that. I have been especially bolstered by the fact that our “founding fathers” created our democracy with safeguards. I hadn’t counted on that. And again, I am proud to be a Californian in the midst of it all. I see our legislators and our governor trying to stand up, trying to do the right thing. I read an article the other day about a man in Los Angeles who is offering trainings to local activist organizations, teaching the self-care skills people will have to master in order to not be completely overwhelmed by the needs they are trying to meet now, particularly for those who serve the undocumented immigrant community. He sits them in a circle, places items for an altar at its center, let’s them talk about the toll these times are taking. And I want to honor each of them, every one of them, of you, for standing up. For being in the front lines. For giving response. For being our own fierce spring.
I thought I’d read the DREAM Act had passed. But I just Googled it to confirm the details, and as far as I can tell it is still not law, even though it was introduced over a decade ago. But there does seem to be some kind of “deferred action” in place now with all the same basic parameters as the DREAM Act itself. If you are an immigrant who was under 16 when you came to this country, if you “have continuously resided in the U.S. for at least five years prior to June 15, 2012 and have been present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012,” if you were under 31 on June 15th of last year, if you are “currently in school, have graduated from high school, have a GED, or [are] an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S. Armed Forces,” and if you have not “been convicted of a felony offense, a ‘significant misdemeanor offense,’ three or more non-significant misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety,” then you can apply for the deferred action. It isn’t clear to me what exactly the deferred action will get you, but the requirements are similar to that of the DREAM Act, so I am guessing the results run along the same lines, too. The DREAM Act allows for a 6-year path to citizenship involving fulfilling certain educational or military requirements. I read about a $495 fee, as well. And while it dismays me that we have fought over this for more than a decade, I’m glad to know we have at least put something in place. I know this will make a big difference for many of my community college students.
But I couldn’t help but feel discouraged by the rules, can’t help wishing we could embrace these young people more completely. I can’t help but wonder if there is any option in place for people to work off their fees during the process. Do we offer payment plans? And I can’t help but think about the brother and sister who are age 30 and 32. My heart sinks at the thought of being so close and not being eligible. I can see that 32-year-old woman, her heart breaking that she missed the age cutoff. But I see her smiling at her brother six years from now, her heart proud, swelling for his big happiness, his big day, becoming a United States citizen. Could we leave her behind more fully, hurt her in any bigger way?
[Editor’s note: The website I quote is available here. And that last rule sounds like it’s open to all kinds of messy interpretation, hmm?]