Last week I attended the funeral of a young man who was killed. At the funeral, I saw a young girl, approximately 8, crying her eyes out at the back of the church. She wore a T-shirt that said when her daddy was alive, he called her his angel.
I later learned she was the “outside” child of the girlfriend, and the wife didn’t want them to participate in her husband’s funeral.
That evening, I mentioned what had happened to two of my neighbors whose opinions I respect. I was taken aback when both concurred that the child had to suffer because of the mess the adults in her life had created. One went so far as to say she would have pointed out to the child, “Look and see what mess your mama and daddy made.”
In retrospect, lots of kids have been dealing with the mess their parents make. They deal with parents who can’t raise them, so granny has to do so. They deal with parents on drugs, parents who go to jail and parents who just up and leave. Sadly, no special consideration is given to these children. They have to suck it up and deal with all the crappy cards life has dealt them.
Over the past couple of weeks, two stories made news that caught my attention. Each involved young people who would benefit from the Dream Act (a named purposely given to try to attach it to Dr. Martin L. King Jr.). The first involves Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former reporter for the Washington Post who recently self-revealed being in this country illegally.
Vargas even penned an article detailing the how(s) and why(s) of his being here illegally. Here’s my brief synopsis, based on the article he wrote: Soon after his grandparents were sworn in as U.S. citizens, they wanted their children to come to this country too. Unfortunately, Vargas’ mom was married and they couldn’t sponsor a married daughter legally. At some point, the daughter decided to send Vargas here illegally. They got him phony documents and he traveled here with someone who was familiar with how to bypass our systems. Once here, his grandfather got him additional phony documents, including a fake green card and phony Social Security card. Later with his grandfather’s help, he would even get a real driver’s license issued by the state of Washington.
Vargas excelled in school and went on to graduate college. As time went on, the deception continued, including lying on federal I-9 employment eligibility forms.
“Claiming full citizenship,” Vargas wrote, “was actually easier than declaring permanent resident ‘green card’ status, which would have required me to provide an alien registration number.”
Over the years, Vargas has looked into legalizing his status. But having to leave this country and being banned from returning for 10 years was his only option. Vargas says in his article that he stepped forward with his immigration status because he had tired of lying and was inspired by several students who walked from Miami to Washington to lobby for the Dream Act.
The most telling part of his story to me came at the end. When his mother sent him here, she told him to tell anyone who asked that he was going to see Disneyland.
The second story involved our own Senator Dick Durbin. He recently got two young brothers, Carlos and Rafael Robles who live in suburban Palatine, a reprieve. They had admitted to being in the country illegally during a routine search by U.S. Border agents when they were taking a train to Buffalo, N.Y., to visit a friend. Their story was the headline news in a local Spanish newspaper (yes, I read, write and speak Spanish).
As one who is not in favor of the Dream Act or Illegal Immigration, I wanted to see what Sen. Durbin saw to discover if my opinion could be swayed. Strangely, or as expected, the Robles brothers had a tale similar to Vargas’.
In 2004, the Robles family got a visitor visa that allowed them to be tourists for six months. Leaving their home and upper-middle-class life in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, they and their parents traveled to this country. Amazingly their parents found jobs, rented a home and sent the boys to school where they excelled. Carlos is now a junior at Loyola and Rafael is going to UIC.
As I reflect on both scenarios, I don’t admire them. The Dream Act would be a legal maneuver to overlook the lies, the cheating and the theft of resources they partook of while in this country illegally.
If a child can bury a parent and deal with the mess her mama and daddy made, surely those brought to this country years ago can return home knowing that their inability to stay here was part of the mess their mamas and daddies made.