Viewpoints

Tom McClintock wants us deported. But is anything more American than a ‘Dreamer’?

Undocumented student wants Rep. McClintock to be her voice in Washington

Doris Romero, an undocumented immigrant, asked Rep. Tom McClintock about legal options for undocumented people living in the United States to become citizens, during a town hall on March 4, 2017.
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Doris Romero, an undocumented immigrant, asked Rep. Tom McClintock about legal options for undocumented people living in the United States to become citizens, during a town hall on March 4, 2017.

I am a Dreamer.

A Dreamer is an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the United States as a child. And that means Tom McClintock, my representative in Congress, voted to deport me. Again.

Just before the House passed the Dream and Promise Act over his opposition last month, McClintock took to the floor to feign compassion before explaining that the 3.6 million Dreamers in the country are, at best, a bargaining chip for a border wall.

His vote is as unsurprising as it is short-sighted and cruel.

We moved to the U.S. when I was just 2 years old. My earliest memories are of going to the park with my family in Santa Barbara. After my mother died of cancer, I was left parentless and moved in with my grandparents in Auburn.

I grew up like any other kid in town. I did not feel different because no one treated me differently. The first DREAM Act, which the Senate voted down in 2010, was introduced when I was 11. But that meant nothing to me at the time. What child pauses on the playground or in the classroom to consider the conditions of their arrival to the U.S.?

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That changed when I wanted a cell phone as a teenager. My grandparents wanted to teach me the value of hard work. I would need to get a job to pay for it. But all my desire and determination to work could not provide me with the papers I needed to do so.

I began to ask questions: Can I get a driver’s license? Go to college? What is the ceiling on my potential? Will I be deported some random day to a place that I cannot even remember?

The worst part was retreating “into the shadows,” only able to confide in a few trusted coaches and teachers.

When I turned 18, I wanted to join the Navy, to serve the only country I had ever known. But the recruiter told me I lacked the documents to enlist, killing my dreams.

I decided instead to study at American River College in Sacramento. I was a decent runner and received a partial scholarship from California State University, Stanislaus to run track and cross country. Despite my success as a student and athlete, I would often wonder what future was possible for me.

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But everything changed during my junior year of college when President Barack Obama announced

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

(DACA). It enabled many Dreamers to acquire temporary residency status. Even though family and friends told me it was a trap, I signed up. Full participation in the “American Dream” was easily worth the risk.

One of my happiest days was when I received the approval letter and my work permit. The sky was now the limit for me, too!

I graduated in 2014 with a degree in kinesiology and returned home to Auburn. I worked for the Latino Leadership Council, doing mental health and homeless outreach in Placer County. I became a mental health first aid Instructor and certified community members in both English and Spanish. I am now married. I continue to work, pay taxes and serve my community.

For McClintock, I amount to an “illegal alien,” an undesirable who invaded his land – even though my story is every bit as American as that of his forebears.

His vote shows his callous disregard for the millions of Dreamers living in the U.S., including the 3,800 who live in his district and the nearly 100,000 students who graduated last month from American high schools without DACA protections from deportation.

He also showed he doesn’t care when he told fellow Dreamer Doris Romero that the only path for her was to self deport to El Salvador, despite having offered her an internship a year earlier when he did not know her immigration status.

Americans are better than McClintock on this issue. Fox News polling shows 79 percent of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. Sixty-two percent of voters said it is extremely important or very important to pass a “Dreamer Law,” ranking higher than healthcare or tax reform.

Please hold McClintock accountable in 2020, because we Dreamers cannot.

Tomas Evangelista is co-founder of California Dreamers.

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