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In October of 2009, I wrote a column about a brilliant high school DREAM student whose goal is to attend college in the fall of 2010. I referred to her as Leticia X. When she spoke to my class at the University of Arizona last fall, she had my students in tears, knowing full well that unless the immigration laws change, she will be unable to pursue her dream.
Leticia X has a special love of land (agriculture) and her dream as a new high school graduate is to become a teacher in Mexican American Studies. I saw her this past week at the annual Raza/Ethnic Studies conference in Tucson, but this time, it was she who was in tears because her father had been picked up that morning by local Sheriff’s deputies and was subsequently turned over to the border patrol.
The most dynamic of educators from across the country had come to learn about the battle against HB 2281 – the new anti ethnic studies law – and the SB 1070 law – the racial profiling law scheduled to take effect July 29. Her presence was a reminder of how Arizona has become the epicenter of dehumanization; her life, and the lives of her family are now in limbo. At the prompting of a professor who had just met Leticia X, the educators instantly sprung to her defense.
Because Congress has still not reformed the nation’s immigration system, she will not be living her dream this fall, though she is now undergoing an even greater tragedy, in this insane asylum known as the apartheid state of Arizona.
Leticia X is not afraid of using her real name. When she spoke to my class, she used her actual name and high school. It is I who chooses not to identify her publically (Recently, DREAM students staged a sit-in at McCain’s Tucson office, subjecting themselves to arrest so that they themselves can take control of their own movement. In Phoenix, other DREAM students served Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio with a community indictment, charging him with crimes against humanity.
Incidentally, Leticia X does not consider herself undocumented or an illegal alien. Neither do other DREAM students conceive of themselves in such a manner. Neither do I. To do so buys into the dehumanization that has become normalized in this society.
The notion that children, who had no choice in coming to this country can be considered illegal, stands logic and the law on its head. Minimally, it is immoral to say the least. To break the law, one has to consciously break a law. Leticia X crossed into the United States at age three… hardly an age when she could have consciously broken any law whatsoever.
She considers herself a U.S. citizen because she has no conscious memory of any other nation than this one; she is guilty of no crime, and should be treated as such. The potential deportation of her father/family puts a human face on the inhumanity that our society has descended to. Her father is not illegal either; his only “crime” was to try and make a better life for his family.
This is at a time when President Obama recently directed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to concentrate on deporting violent criminals who are a threat to the public safety and (a canard) those who are a threat to national security. Leticia X’s father is neither. Neither is his family.
In the heat of an electoral campaign, where she is vying to become the elected governor of the state… and in the heat of defending the state’s racial profiling law, Arizona’s unelected Gov. Jan Brewer has taken the lead in the misinformation department, alleging that most migrants are carrying drugs and that drug cartels have been beheading people in the Arizona desert. Both are fiction.
Brewer should meet Leticia X. If she did, she would come face to face with a beautiful human being, guilty of no crimes and deserving to be treated as a full human being. If anything, this future teacher merits a full scholarship.
President Obama should also meet Leticia X. He should meet her father and be reminded about his recently declared immigration enforcement priorities. Upon meeting them, he would know the face of this debate; he would know that it is high time to reform the nation’s immigration laws and that it is also high time to bring millions of people, not into Arpaio’s infamous tents, but rather, into the tent of humanity.
ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at XColumn@gmail.com