CVIndependent

Sun02252018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

In 2001, the DREAM Act was introduced in Congress. If passed into law, the DREAM Act would grant legal status to undocumented children who were brought to and educated in the United States.

Sixteen years later, the act has never been passed. DREAMers, the young men and women who would be affected by the law, received some help in 2012 when the Obama administration enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy—but in September, the Trump administration announced it was repealing the program. (See “A Nightmare for Dreamers,” Oct. 19, at CVIndependent.com.)

As a result, Hugo Chavez, of Desert Hot Springs, fears for his future.

Chavez is well-known in the Coachella Valley music community. He’s the drummer for local band Sleeping Habits (formerly The BrosQuitos), and is one of the many DREAMers across the country who hope to become a legal resident or citizen someday.

“I was brought here from Mexico when I was less than a year old,” Chavez said during a recent interview. “It’s something that has always affected my life in some way or another. It’s hard to explain, because when you’re not in that situation, you are very unaware of how it really is. You have what you want, but you can’t really do anything.

“(DACA) helped out a lot. As a musician, the fear of crossing somewhere or playing somewhere like San Diego—it wasn’t a possibility. You can’t go somewhere like San Diego over the fear of being deported, and (DACA) took that fear away. … It’s like being trapped in a golden cage: You’re where you want to be, but you can’t really do anything.”

Chavez said he lives in Desert Hot Springs for a reason.

“I’ve stayed here in Desert Hot Springs my whole life, because it’s more of a safe haven than anything else,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about Border Patrol coming through here, especially for our families. … It’s a safe haven for them, and they don’t have to worry so much about hiding or going to the local grocery store.”

Chavez said he really started to understand the gravity of his situation when he was in high school.

“You see your friends when they turn 16 going to get their licenses and doing the typical American teenager stuff, and you’re always questioning, ‘Why am I not doing that?’ or, ‘Why can’t I do that?’” he said. “Then it all hits you that you can’t get a license or even an ID card because of your status. It sucks, because I had opportunities to take trips with the marching band or do other extracurricular activities that I couldn’t do.”

Chavez’s parents—like the parents of many DREAMers—came to the United States in search of the American dream.

“It’s the same story that anyone would tell you: It’s the pursuit of a better life,” he said. “When you’re living in Mexico, some people work all week to make 100 pesos, and that’s not even $10 in the United States. They can’t survive, making so little money. Parents want their kids to go to college; they want something bigger for them, or at least some opportunity for their children to pursue a dream. That’s why my mom and dad have to do what they do.”

When we discussed the arguments people opposed to the DREAM Act often make, Chavez said the opponents oversimplify things.

People like to say, ‘If you don’t like your country, you should fix it.’ But it’s not that easy,” he said. “People can vote and start as many petitions as they can in this country, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to change anything. It’s the same thing there. People can speak out, but when you have a government that controls the people as well as they do there, there’s not much you can say or do without fear of repercussions.”

Chavez’s family has been trying to get legal status for several years.

“It’s something people are really misguided about. A lot of people just say, ‘Go get your citizenship!’ It’s not like I can walk into an office and pay to get my citizenship. It doesn’t work like that,” he said. “My family has been in the process of getting our citizenship and visas for over 10-plus years. We’ve supposedly been approved, but there’s no actual date to go and do our fingerprints or anything like that. … It’s not simple at all, and you have to go through so many background checks, and they check your health, your status, where you work, and everything before you’re approved. It’s not something that takes 10 minutes, like it’s in and out at the DMV. … If it were so easy, this wouldn’t be such a big deal.”

Despite his legal status, Chavez said he wants to pursue as many of his dreams as he can.

“Now that I have (DACA), it allowed me to get my license, get my ID, and get everything that I needed in order to make that next step into getting citizenship,” he said. “The fear of going somewhere is not there anymore. I can freely go to the courthouse or go somewhere to pay a fee knowing that I’m going to make it home that same night. It’s a liberating feeling.

“Having the option to go to college and do anything that I want to do is something I don’t take for granted. Some people live in this country and have all these opportunities by birthright, and then they blame society for all the things they haven’t done. I’d rather fight for what I got and work my way up.”

I asked Chavez what the repeal of DACA, without a replacement by Congress, would mean for him.

“The basic fear is the fear of having to go back into hiding—the fear of not being accepted in general,” he said. “I have nothing different than my fellow band members or my friends in college; I’m just the same as a person as they are. The fear of having to dwell back and not be able to do the things I do now—it’d be a step in the wrong direction, especially for people like me who have so much to offer, and so much to do, and (our legal status) is the only thing holding us back.”

Published in Local Issues

On Oct. 8, the Trump White House released a long list of demands that the president had given to Congress—demands that Trump said would need to be met in order for the fate of young undocumented immigrants, often called DREAMers, to be determined.

“These findings outline reforms that must be included as part of any legislation addressing the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients,” Trump said. “Without these reforms, illegal immigration and chain migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end.”

The list of demands disappointed advocates of DREAMers—young men and women who could face deportation if Congress does not act.

Hadley Bajramovic is a Riverside County immigration attorney for both the Consulate of Mexico and the Consulate of Guatemala. She said the proclamation by Trump did not surprise her.

“I don’t know that it was shocking,” Bajramovic said, “but the recommendations (the Trump White House) made are very harsh from our point of view. A lot of the principles and policies that are talked about in that memo are already in place. So, for me, there are parts of it that are just a big eye-roll.

“I noticed a theme of using criminality as a scare tactic—like we aren’t protected from (immigrants). ‘We need to protect the U.S.A. from these people,’ but the protections are already there.”

Bajramovic highlighted some of the positions outlined in the White House directive that she found to be misleading and/or inflammatory.

“The administration is suggesting that the border is still porous, and it is not,” she said. “I work with people who come to the border and declare asylum or ask for protection, and also people who crossed the border illegally. In the past two to three years, I have not had anybody come to my office who recently crossed without inspection. It was very common up until about 2007-2008 that people would either cross through the desert or come in (with the help of) a coyote. Now the people I am seeing were admitted or paroled in by the Border Patrol because they established that they could be eligible for relief. So the notion that the border is still porous is wrong. Building a wall is unnecessary. It’s an unnecessary expense.”

“But what was interesting and eye-opening is that whoever drafted these policies was aware of the protections coming into place under our local laws to help undocumented people or people with immigration issues who have criminal convictions. Most recently, California passed a law that allows attorneys to submit motions to vacate criminal convictions if it can be proven that the defendant was not fully aware of the immigration consequences of accepting a plea deal. This law, California 1473.7, went into effect this past January and says that before a person can do a plea deal, they must understand what they are doing. It’s a due-process protection, and it’s fair. This memo attacks that type of due-process protection and is calling it a part of the ‘sanctuary status.’ It calls for prohibiting states or cities from giving that kind of a remedy. That’s really disturbing.

“Another point that is really important: California provides services and benefits to aliens,” Bajramovic said. “In fact, the California Department of Social Services just opened up federal funding (to access by the public) of $45 million to fund immigration relief for undocumented people. Now this memo says they want to restrict grants to states that do that.”

Megan Beaman Jacinto is a La Quinta-based immigration-rights attorney.

“I’ve seen some phases of reaction and response (among current DACA beneficiaries), beginning with the time leading up to Sept. 5, when Trump declared that DACA would be ended by executive order. There was dread mixed with terror leading up to that date—but after, it was just terror,” she said. “There was a lot of uncertainty immediately about whether that announcement meant that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would just be coming for everyone who then possessed DACA. That was the initial reaction, I think, both in the advocate community as well as the DACA-recipient undocumented community.”

Beaman Jacinto pointed out a less-obvious consequence of the Trump administration’s ongoing anti-immigration stance.

“There’s been an interesting political framing of the DREAMer community as the one, limited group of people who are deserving of immigration protection,” Beaman Jacinto said. “It’s like they were the victims of their parents (actions and decisions). I appreciate, and agree, that the group we call DREAMers should be protected, but it sort of requires that we vilify everyone else. The parents of those kids are not DREAMers, even though they came here to provide a better life for their families. And the kids arriving now are not DREAMers, because they didn’t arrive before the deadline and the passage of the DREAMer legislation. It’s an interesting and arbitrary set of guidelines that have established this one deserving group that’s received protection both from Obama’s DACA executive order and now, most likely, from the (new Trump iteration) of the DREAM Act which we think will become law, hopefully next year. If that passes, it will be really great, and a step in the right direction—but it has required throwing a lot of other people under the bus.”

“If the DREAM Act does pass, or even if it doesn’t, we need to do the right thing for other people who didn’t fall into that so-called DREAMer category—because we’re all dreamers.”

Published in Local Issues

California’s Democratic legislators want to extend health benefits to undocumented young adults, the continuation of an effort that ushered children without legal status into the state’s publicly funded health care system last year.

It is unclear when the program would start or how much the state would spend if the proposal, which could cost up to $85 million a year, is approved by Gov. Jerry Brown. Lawmakers are working out details ahead of their June 15 deadline for passing a new budget.

The plan would provide full-scope coverage for 19-to-26-year-olds who qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s name for Medicaid. Currently, the federally funded program covers only emergency visits and prenatal care for undocumented residents. Under the proposal, revenue from taxes on tobacco products would absorb expenses for all other coverage.

Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens has been one of the strongest voices for expanded care. In 2015, he pushed for coverage for all adults. That proposal was changed to admit only undocumented children; it took effect last year. This year, he said in a recent video message to supporters, “We are going to make the final push to ensure we capture our young adults.”

Supporters’ ultimate goal is to include all undocumented adults, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a health care consumer group backing the proposal.

“We believe without coverage, people are sicker, die younger and are one emergency away from financial ruin. It has consequences for their families and their communities—both health and financial consequences,” he said.

The plan would mean that undocumented children currently in the program would not age out at 19, putting low-income undocumented immigrants on par with those allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance under the Affordable Care Act (often called Obamacare) until they are 26.

Republican Sen. John Moorlach of Costa Mesa opposes an extension of benefits. One reason is financial: California doesn’t have “a balance sheet we can brag about,” he said, citing the state’s debt load, among other reasons.

Secondly, he disapproves of illegal immigration. Moorlach migrated to the U.S. legally as a child with his family from the Netherlands.

“I’m kind of offended that we feel an obligation to pay for expenses for those who did not come through the front door,” he said. “I certainly have compassion and want to help people in need, but I’m having difficulty, as a legal immigrant, because we are already in such bad fiscal shape.”

Advocates argue that undocumented immigrants help propel California’s economy with their labor and the taxes they pay, and that they cost the state money when they don’t work because of illness or when they end up in the emergency room.

“Health care is a right,” said Ronald Coleman, director of government affairs for the California Immigrant Policy Center, an advocacy organization and supporter of the proposal. “These are folks we are investing in through the California Dream Act and through other programs our state offers, and it makes sense to invest in our future, which our young adults will be.”

Estimates vary for how many people this expansion of Medi-Cal would serve and what the costs would be. Each house of the Legislature has passed its own version of the proposal, with differing figures attached.

The Assembly allocated $54 million a year to cover an unspecified number of additional enrollees, with a July 2017 start date. The Senate proposed $63.1 million in the first year, beginning in 2018, and $85 million annually thereafter, also without specific population numbers.

Coleman’s center, which is working closely with lawmakers on the issue, estimates about 80,000 new people would be eligible, and the cost would be around $54 million a year. That assumes the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program continues, because it provides access to Medi-Cal. If DACA were eliminated, the figures would increase to about 100,000 eligible people and about $84 million in annual costs, Coleman said.

The governor’s proposed budget does not include the proposed expansion or any money for it.

Kevin, a 19-year-old Angeleno who asked that only his first name be used, because he lives in California illegally, wants the proposal to succeed. He has been working for more than a year to distribute information about Medi-Cal children’s coverage to immigrant families.

He meets all but one of the requirements for DACA: He was not in the country before June 15, 2007. He arrived in the U.S. in 2011 at age 14 from Guatemala, on a visa that later expired. He graduated high school, has no criminal record and is now majoring in business administration at California State University, Los Angeles.

“There’s this misunderstanding that young people are healthy,” said Kevin, who suffers from eczema. He worries about the chronic condition flaring up. “When it gets worse, it doesn’t let me do anything with my hands.”

He is enrolled in a county health insurance program for low-income residents, but he can’t afford a dermatologist. He can barely pay for the prescription lotion he uses for the eczema, and sometimes goes without it.

“We are trying to have a better economic standard, and we are like the building blocks of this society,” he said. “Having health insurance will allow us to focus more on school and do our regular day-to-day activities. A healthier society works better for everyone.”

If lawmakers can now agree on details, a consensus proposal will go to the full Legislature for approval. The deadline for that is June 12.

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit journalism venture dedicated to exploring state policies and politics.

Published in Local Issues

Dear Mexican: A very close friend of mine is supposed to become a U.S. citizen. He was brought here by his parents when he was 9 and has been illegal since then.

When the laws changed, he went through a lot of hoops, and it really didn’t look good for a long while—especially since he was already 30 by the time the law was truly enacted. But somehow, through petitions and an appeal, he has been told he will become a U.S. citizen. That being said, he is still waiting for the day, still working in a dodgy manner, and still not driving—his American wife always drives.

There’s a pallor of emasculation about not being a citizen. He feels second-rate—something I know not because he tells us, but because his wife and I are very close. He takes out his anger and resentment on his wife and marriage, and it’s caused immense stress.

Are there counselors specifically for people who are dealing with the difficulty of becoming legal? Is that a strange question? I love this guy so much—he’s such a close friend to our family. I’ve never met a harder worker and a more curious soul. This scenario, while common, is so unfair. It breaks my heart that he has to experience this—and has for years. Any advice would be so greatly appreciated.

Good Gabacha Friend

Dear Gabacha: There are many support networks for undocumented folks, whether they’re younger DREAMers, or people who just missed the cutoff point for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama administration memorandum that effectively put millions of people like your friend in a waiting game. And now with Obummer stating there’s no chance of any immigration reform until after the November elections, your friend and so many others will continue to wait in frustration—but tell your amigo he should feel no shame, and to keep the faith.

Then again, who am I to say anything? The Mexican was born in this country—it was my papi who came in the trunk of a Chevy—so maybe my privilege makes me wear rose-colored mad-doggers. Have him check out dreamersadrift.com, where my former producer, renowned artist Julio Salgado, and others tackle on the problem of what it means to grow up in this country without papers and a government de puros pendejos.

So I went to New York the other day, and we went to this neighborhood that was Dominican. I didn’t know what that meant, but it looked like a normal black neighborhood. Then I noticed they were all speaking Mexican. Is a Dominican just a fancy word for a black Mexican? Why are they so good at baseball?

Confused in Utah

Dear Gabacho: This is ¡Ask a Mexican!, not ¡Ask a Tíguere!, so I really can’t help you much here. The only facts I can offer are that a 2008 City University of New York study projected Mexicans to eclipse Dominicans as the largest immigrant group in la Gran Manzana in the next decade, meaning there’ll be a whole new group of Latinos to hate us soon. Oh, and that our mujeres LOVE bachata, the twang Dominican music form that’s the only genre in the world certified by God as an automatic choni dropper.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: I know an 18-year-old who is getting deported from the United States. He has been here since he was 5 years old. His entire family is here and undocumented. He grew up in juvenile halls and committed a felony as soon as he turned 18. Will he be deported for sure, or will the immigration judge give him a break since his entire family is here?

Deportations Are for Dummies

Dear Gabacho: Alas, homeboy is probably going, going adiós.

The Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows undocumented youngsters a two-year stay of deportation (subject to renewal) until Congress gets its amnesty act together, specifically states that candidates aren’t eligible if they’ve “been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and … pose a threat to national security or public safety.”

While I don't know the circumstances of the guy you’re talking about, it doesn’t seem he stands a chance for judicial mercy or to become a cause célèbre for DREAMers across the country. That said, if all the charges were bullshit, and the legal system has royally screwed the kid, get in contact with your local DREAMer movement, as their courage in fighting for the damned has been far more impressive than what Latino politicians have shown. And do it fast: The Obama administration deports Mexicans as quickly as California’s reservoirs are drying up.

My wife (who is Mexican) is a tough nut psychologically to figure out, so I am turning to the expert for some desperately needed insight. Essentially, when we began dating, all was right as rain. She was sweet, kind, considerate and extremely attentive. Now, what I call “brown outs” occur. She will fly off the handle at the drop of a hat, throw things and say awful nasty things—basically, she turns into a she-devil. Furthermore, the jealousy (although seemingly dormant for the moment) is always there. I think it would drive her loca if I ever left my garage and had a beer at the cantina again.

We love each other very much, so I guess you could say our marriage is anything but dull. Is this typical with Mexican women? ¡Ayúdame!

Lobo Blanco

Dear Gabacho: The traditional explanation was that it was all about sangre: The blood of the Moors, Spaniards, Gypsies and Aztecs coursing through a mujer’s veins resulted in a quartet of locura that was simultaneously alluring and dangerous. (Just refer to the Agustín Lara canon, specifically “Granada,” for further detail.) On second thought, that’s just bigoted heteronormative misogyny … so let’s just chalk it up to the fact that Mexican woman are crazy because they’re women, m’kay?

I have no pride in being Mexican American. I’m not that insecure! It’s pathetic that people take pride in something they had no control over! I take pride in my personal accomplishments and my behavior and things that I control, the decisions I make amd the goals I reach. Grow up.

Proud to Be Me

Dear Wab: Congratulations on becoming the first Mexican acolyte of Ayn Rand!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: In the past, you have defended illegal immigrants by arguing that they (paraphrasing one of your previous columns) will do the jobs gabachos won't do for the same wages. I agree. I have a white-collar job, so I'm totally content to benefit from the low prices brought about by an uneducated underclass unprotected by American labor laws, content in the knowledge that no Mexican will ever take mi trabajo.

But now this DREAM Act comes along, encouraging them to go to college, and my job's up for grabs, too? I already have enough competition from the Chinese and the Indians! What possible benefit could this legislation have for a guy like me? (And you know they're just going to spend 95 percent of their time in school chanting “Sí, se puede” anyway.)

Nightmare Act Is More Like It

Dear Gabacho: I'd rather have college kids chant “Sí se puede” than join a pointless fraternity/sorority or get blotto at said pointless fraternity/sorority parties. All that said, though, you don't have to worry about DREAMers taking your job—you'll continue to have your middle-class lifestyle as these DREAMers catapult over you and become your bosses, because they all possess the drive, ambition and talent that gabachos used to exhibit in college before it became finishing schools for high schoolers.

Better learn how to grovel to el jefe in English and Español, chulo!

I have noticed that Mexican women will put up with being called a ruca, heina, vieja, “my old lady” and even culinary terms, like “my little pupusa” or chimichanga. But when you call her a “torta,” you are in one major fight. Why? What is so bad about tortas?

Don One-Liners

Dear Gabacho: You're calling her “fat,” because tortas are fat Mexican sandwiches made on French rolls.

Want to culinarily woo her? Go old-school and call her a “hot tamale,” or go postmodern and deem her your memela—TRUST ME.

Sometimes when I'm eating a burrito, the bottom end becomes saturated with moisture, and the tortilla breaks, and stuff falls out. Is this the result of a lack of burrito-eating skill, an improperly-made burrito, or is this just the way it's supposed to be?

Chipotle Chingón

Dear Neighbor of Mexicans: Don't be a Mexican and accept the world the way it's supposed to be, ESPECIALLY the art of the burrito. Gabachos are so clueless that they think burritos are supposed to vomit out their contents like a coed in pre-narco Acapulco—¡que pendejos!

A true burrito is an immaculate cylindrical god, wrapped up as tight as bacon around a hot dog, its structure so sound that you can throw it through the air in a spiral, and it won't explode. This isn't even a question of size: The largest burritos on Earth are those made in the Mission District in San Francisco (where Chipotle's founder found his “inspiration” for the chain's burritos), where the Mission burrito is a way of life—larger than bricks, wrapped tight in foil, and never exploding. (Here’s a shout-out to my favorite taquería—that's what burrito emporiums are called in San Francisco—in the Mission, El Castillito!)

If a burrito gets so soggy at the bottom that it disintegrates, then the maker either put too much salsa/guacamole/sour cream in it, or the meat's so damn greasy that it's not worth eating. If your burrito disintegrates, demand a refund—or, better yet, sue the business owner for defaming the burrito's good nombre.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or ask him a video question at youtube.com/askamexicano!

Published in Ask a Mexican