The carne sizzled outside. The Spanish festively
bounced around the kitchen. Families poured
in for the Sunday birthday celebration in a
warm middle-class Denison neighborhood, Latinos
and white folk on the same block. The host family
stood on the ready. Another glass of horchata?
A piece of tres leches cake?
But there was one noticeable absence. The family’s
13-year-old daughter would not leave her room.
Wouldn’t make an appearance. Not even for a
moment. She was squirreled away for the day.
“What’s she doing in there? She sick?” I asked
her bilingual sister. Most kids you encounter
in Denison are bilingual. They speak Spanish
as well (or almost as well) as their parents
and manage English like native Iowans.
“She’s in there watching ‘Twilight’ for like
the 50th time,” the sister said, her eyes rolling
on something of a spin cycle. “She’s crazy in
love with Robert Pattinson.”
I laughed. So much for the issue of assimilation.
This girl’s issue isn’t that she won’t adopt
American culture. Quite the opposite. Like millions
of other American teens, she’s under the Edward
Is her family here illegally? I don’t know.
Perhaps. I don’t make it a business to ask people
for papers in Denison. There’s enough of that
in Jan Brewer’s Arizona. But like dozens of
other young Latinos I’ve met in the last 10
years, the 13-year-old crushing on Pattinson
is indisputably American. And collectively,
these young people, who deserve to be fully
embraced, are a staggeringly valuable untapped
resource in western Iowa — possessing the ability
to code switch from Spanish to English and back.
In a state reliant on exports, this should be
viewed as a bigger deal, a blessing.
This past Friday when President Obama announced
a policy to stop the deportation of young, undocumented
immigrants, I could see the faces.
Yes, there are politics. I understand this.
But it is the right move by the president on
a human level.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, applauded the
Obama administration’s decision to stop the
deportation of young undocumented immigrants
in favor of a work-permitting process.
“I’m very much in favor of the DREAM Act, and
I applaud the Obama administration for their
steps in this direction,” Harkin said in a conference
call with Cityview and other media. “It just
seems a violation of human rights, unfair, for
a child whose been brought here illegally by
parents or others, who had no choice in the
matter, but has grown up here and is going to
school here, just to be summarily deported.”
Illegal immigrants will be immune from deportation
if they were brought to the United States before
they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have
been in the country for at least five continuous
years, have no criminal history, graduated from
a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served
in the military, The Associated Press reported.
The Obama Administration stopped short of referring
to the plan as an administrative DREAM Act.
DREAM is an acronym for Development, Relief
and Education for Alien Minors
“Many of these young kids maybe don’t even have
families there anymore,” Harkin said. “Maybe
their families are here or elsewhere. This,
to me, is just fairness, equity. Human rights
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last month
found Obama leading presumptive GOP presidential
candidate Mitt Romney among Hispanic voters
61 percent to 27 percent. A December poll by
the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 59 percent
of Latinos disapproved of the president’s handling
of deportations, The AP reported.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, called
the philosophy behind the move a concession
to the forces of amnesty. He’s even threatened
to sue the president.
In an interview with Fox News Latino, King,
vice chairman of the House Immigration subcommittee,
challenged the philosophy behind the DREAM Act.
“If you give them (their undocumented children)
a pardon, it would consist of eliminating or
reducing the penalty that exists,” King said.
“That’s amnesty. I’m not without compassion,
I see the DREAM Act as the strongest argument
they have, but it still meets the definition
of amnesty. We need to restore the rule of law;
we need to restore the expectation that the
law will be enforced. Until we can do that,
why would we grant a path to citizenship?”
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the
move is an affront to American democracy.
“The President once denied that he had the legal
authority to do this, and Congress was assured
more than once that the administration would
consider individuals for this sort of deferred
status on a case-by-case basis only, and that
there was no plan to implement a broad-based
program,” Grassley said in a statement. “It
seems the President has put election-year politics
above responsible policies. On top of providing
amnesty to those under 30 years old, the administration
now will be granting work authorizations to
illegal immigrants at the same time young Americans
face record-high unemployment rates.”
Not in western Iowa where we need people. Including
Latinas obsessed with “Twilight” heartthrobs.
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa
newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily
Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.