On Entitlement and the DREAM Movement

I told myself that I wouldn’t respond to Ruben Navarrette’s pieces when I read them.

Why give this guy anymore bandwidth? In reading his pieces about DREAMers (which I’ll grudgingly link below) and a stack of other pieces he’s written in the past, it’s apparent to me that this guy is an opportunistic columnist masquerading as a journalist; the sort who, if he applied himself correctly in style and form, could definitely make a better living writing celebrity gossip columns. After all, he certainly knows how to fluff up a column with one tiny morsel of truth and a whole lot of speculation and opinion, much better than the lot over at Us Weekly.

I’ve seen his Facebook page. The look on his face definitely resembles Danny Devito’s crime-writing character in “L.A. Confidential,” willing to scurvy his way into a column and do anything to give his audience exactly what they want, by any means necessary. This cigar-smoking fuck is hungry for attention, absolutely.

But after a couple of weeks of thinking through his shaky points, I had to admit that Ruben brought up one single point of interest amidst all his Uncle Juan bullshit:

Entitlement.

Of all the shit Ruben wrote, I think this is the one word that stung. As an undocumented immigrant myself, I keep up with countless immigration-related blogs and columns, and I’m accustomed to reading crazier stuff. But I’ve never really encountered someone projecting the topic of “entitlement” onto DREAMers the way Ruben did.

In his first piece (“DREAMers Are Pushing Their Luck”), Ruben makes it a point to thoroughly bash the in-your-face tactics that some undocumented youth have adopted, and scoffed at the “demands” that other DREAMers have posed as their idea of immigration reform. According to him, because the movement has continued to grow successfully and has gained traction with a few big wins, we’ve become entitled spoiled brats, created with a twisted understanding of the American Dream, and somebody needs to set us straight before we fuck it up for others.

I mean, it’s bad enough that we have a citizen Latino fella trying to advice undocumented youth on how we should fight our own fight and when we should shut the fuck up. Now, we have this prick who doesn’t particularly have a clear understanding of the DREAM movement trying to tell us who we care about and whom we’re failing.

The irony. It’s embarrassing.

Just read through his first article. By the time I got to the end of the column, I was confused as to whether Ruben was congratulating DREAMers for being the squeaky wheel to finally getting a bit of oil, whether he’s praising movement leaders for being organized, gutsy, resourceful, and knowledgeable on how to get shit done in the thick of this broken and expensive American bureaucratic system, or if he’s embarrassed and concerned that most of the young citizens of this country have yet to show any kind of similar passion to organize and demand accountability and positive change for their society. 

In his second piece (“If I Offended Demanding DREAMers, I’m Not Sorry”), he talks about how his immigrant Mexican wife is pissed off at him for being the asshole that he is and publishing that first column about DREAMers. And I asked myself a couple questions: “Why didn’t he run the idea for the column by his wife before publishing? Why did he skip talking to DREAMers, instead asking his buddy Arnold Torres for thoughts about the DREAM movement?”

The answers to those questions then became apparent to me: had he ran the column by his wife first, he would’ve found himself sleeping on the couch for an indefinite amount of time. And had he decided to reach out and speak to a DREAMer or two, he would’ve realized that he had nothing real to write about. And in this world of attention and relevancy, one must create controversy to pay bills or get bills passed/or defeated. Ruben, of all people, knows this very well.

Which brings me back to entitlement.

I understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But when those opinions become a narrative that then birth legislation that strip people of basic human rights, it’s our responsibility as members of this society to do something about it. Junot Díaz calls this The Martí Mind, which is a basic life lesson every parent should teach their children: treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s about understanding that an injustice to anyone is an injustice to EVERYONE. And so long as those injustices exist, NOBODY is really free.

The DREAM Movement is arguably one of the most unapologetically progressive movements this country has ever seen. We’ve been lucky enough to witness and experience how a movement can evolve into a force not to be taken lightly. 10 years ago, very few were out as undocumented and unafraid. Now, there’s an entirely new generation of undocumented youth who continue to build and morph the movement into one that even the President himself cannot ignore. The movement now has flanks, think tanks, strategy, an overwhelming understanding on how the political game is played, a long-term vision, goals that appear more and more attainable with every passing action, and lots of supporters.

And in the course of all of the work that’s been done, the movement has also garnered lots of critics and haters. And if a Latino columnist could get his panties up in a bunch about all the noise that’s been made, the movement MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT.

No movement is perfect; our past is littered with many dead-ends, pitfalls, U-turns, burned bridges, forks and splits, and because of how big and diverse the movement has become, there are many different ideas and approaches to the ultimate goal. Everyone involved has their own personal and public reasons for being involved. But I can assure Mr. Naverrette that hardly anyone is involved for “entitlements.”

The DREAM Movement is one of love.

Though the DREAMer condition was created out of political inactivity and oppression, undocumented youth found opportunity to take a sad song and make it better. We’re driven by faith, hope, and lots of hard work, modeled by our parents (the people Ruben said we’re willingly throwing under the bus). We’re not DREAMers; we’re manifestations of the dreams of our parents. We can do what we do because we have the support, love, and blessings of our parents and community members. To give DREAMers a pathway to citizenship would be a dream fulfilled not for us, but for our parents and our entire community at large. And the way undocumented youth are paying forward for their being in the forefront/spotlight of the immigration conversation is by widening the conversation on who is undocumented and what it means to be undocumented in the United States.

Ruben doesn’t have to look too far to see evidence of this. Just in the last year, there was the Undocubus arrests outside of the DNC (organized by undocumented youth), undocumented activists infiltrating detention centers to gather intel, undocumented youth protesting deportations of parents arrested for ridiculous reasons, countless of other petitions that have been circulated in support of many other non-DREAMers via DreamActivist.org, undocumented youth participating in the elections process to help their communities against racist law enforcement and organizing to oust politicians who threaten our communities, etc. etc. The list goes on.

If Ruben doesn’t agree with the tactics and tone that undocumented youth have taken while discussing their predicament, it’s perfectly okay. But to call us entitled because we, as a movement, are rocking the boat against complacency with SCOMM’s lack of due process, record profits and lobbying in the incarceration of undocumented immigrants,  the deplorable conditions of many detention centersrecord number of deportations and new projected numbers/goals set for 2013 is a cheap shot at best, knowingly ignorant and slanderous at worst.

We don’t treat ourselves as “special”. We understand that when we’re lined up against the wall with other undocumented immigrants, we have that one single DREAMer privilege that may help us stay out of detention and deportation proceedings. And we’ve used this one card to create our own narratives and cultural movement, we’ve developed our own instances of cultural intervention, and we’ve done it all with very little outside interest and help. We learned very quickly that the only way to garner any kind of media exposure and attention, members of the movement had to do so with their own lives and bodies.

These privileges we’re asking for (to obtain a drivers license, a social security number, a green card, even citizenship), are all a means to an end: the finality of this xenophobic witch hunt, and ultimately, freedom. All these ID cards and paperwork are to ensure a certain amount of legal rights and privileges (though Obama did just sign the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, so who even knows who can stay out of indefinite detainment anymore).

I can’t speak for everyone in the movement, but I know that I’d like for undocu folks to have drivers licenses so that if and when they encounter police, they’re able to identify themselves and hopefully not end up arrested and in a detention center. I believe that we should all have a social security number not because we feel entitled to them; on top of being able to work and earn a living to provide for ourselves and our loved ones, we’d like to be safe from losing our jobs if feds demand an audit from employers to weed out undocumented workers and possibly end up in deportation proceedings. I don’t want a green card because I feel entitled to one; I’d like one because it’ll ease my mother’s mind a bit about me getting caught up. I’d like citizenship not because I feel entitled to it but because I’ve worked for it and I’ve earned it. We’ve earned it. Most undocumented immigrants have done more to deserve citizenship than a lot of the lazy pendejos who just happened to be have been born here -as if they had absolutely any say over where they were born.

I don’t blame my parents for my being here and for my situation. I’m reminded of their sacrifice every single day of my life. Their coming here with me in tow for a better life is a bigger sacrifice than most U.S. citizens will ever have to make. Nobody can truly understand what it means to start over in a politically inhospitable environment unless you live through it. Undocumented youth understand this better than anyone.

Immigrants (undocumented and not) know more about the American dream that U.S. citizens ever will. We know the good parts of this American scheme , and we’re very well versed in the dark side of it all. Undocumented youth are not making splashes because we want to mirror the American teenage mentality of “gimme gimme gimme”.

We do it because if we don’t, NOBODY else will do it for us. And it’s all reached a very critical point. Remaining in the shadows is no longer a viable to our survival. Keeping silent and following the lead of politicians is NOT an option any longer.

Wait for white saviors and/or the approvals of politicians? Ain't nobody got time for that!

We’re not fighting for “entitlements” like the latest smartphone, a heated indoor swimming pool, an expensive vehicle, a super crazy birthday party in which we have Cirque Du Soleil performing for all of our douchebag guests, etc. Our demands are not for material items. Our demands are very simple and universal: basic human rights. The DREAM movement is about liberation, accountability, peace, and true FREEDOM.

We have a RIGHT to FREEDOM and SELF-DETERMINATION.

It’s understandable if the ferocity that the movement has developed scare a lot of citizen folk, particularly those in power. It just means that we’re awake, we’re very strong, and we’re on the left side of history. Sooner or later, we will achieve what we set out to accomplish.

So I thank Ruben for his non-nonsensical gibberish. I would have preferred that he use his platform to help undocumented youth by pressing the important issues that affect undocumented people in this country so that youth wouldn’t have to go out, halt traffic, and be arrested in order to attract media attention. It would’ve been nice to have a Latino reporter AMPLIFYING the voice of undocumented people in mainstream English media instead of trying to discredit it. Would’ve been nice to have another ally instead of yet another parasite jumping on the bandwagon and writing columns on DREAMers because the topic of immigrations is soOOoo “in” nowadays.

But in the end, Ruben helped fortify my belief in the work that the DREAM movement has accomplished thus far, and it further reinforced the notion of entitlement of opinion, no matter how absolutely ridiculous and ill-informed it may be.

Ruben: welcome to the undocumented movement, 2013. The gloves have come off. Expect more escalation.

And you’re welcome. You know. For all the judgmental non-informative horseshit that you’ll be writing this year whenever DREAMers do something of which you don’t approve. I realize that you believe that DREAMers are to be seen and not heard. I know you’re working on that side of the street and I know writing bullshit is your meal ticket. So enjoy it.

Asshole.

In solidarity,
Jesús

Comments

3 Responses to “On Entitlement and the DREAM Movement”
  1. Tina Vasquez says:

    You’re all kinds of amazing, Jesús, and your writing is spot-on.

  2. iDream says:

    Thanks Jesus! This is truly a great response, i can fall asleep knowing there are other like me who would truly want to be heard, and understood, let this year bring the Dream Act, followed by CIR, keep on inspiring others, and defending freedom for all. Much Love.

  3. VO Evans says:

    I really am happy to see that so many of us have come together for a great cause. It’s something so many of us have waited for for so many years and we’re finally being heard. And I must say your response was brilliant, were not brats with a sense of entitlement, we only seek to earn what we’ve worked so hard to achieve.

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