dream act Archives - The Jose Vilson

dream act

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, Hugging After Re-Election

Dear President Obama,

You’ve won. Congratulations. Honestly. As an independent, I had no initial horse in this race, but as a Afro-Latino, I’m proud that you’ve once again managed to claim the White House as yours, in a country where the bones, blood, and sweat of African slaves and Native Americans sit under the House you now occupy. Your re-election came at a high cost, specifically your dreams of a bi-partisan transcendence. If anything, it solidified that the country civilly lives in three spheres: one that wants to push its party a little farther right, one that wishes its party would push a lot farther left, and one that sits square in the middle, lukewarm to the politics of the current day.

My family and I watched your sincerest video to date a few hours ago, awed at the humanity you showed in victory, inspiring those of us who do work in the public sector for those less fortunate and / or privileged. Our son will never know a world where a person of color can’t reach the highest post in our government, and the personal sacrifices you made to make that happen might have brought a weaker man to his knees.

But, your work is far from done.

We thought you would bring fair trials to the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and close it in your first year. The gates remain open.

We thought you would bring about actual peace in the Middle East. You might have killed Osama bin Laden, but you are equally responsible for the drones dropping on innocent civilians there, and the perpetuation of the Green Zone in Baghdad while babies die right outside its gates.

We thought you would reverse the reprehensible education policies set by your predecessor George W. Bush, and, instead, you may have enhanced the testing machine in many ways, even as you speak against it.

We thought you would push for a single payer piece in a more comprehensive universal health care bill instead of what turned out to be the health care reform we ended up seeing. It’s saved thousands, and most of the bill’s effects will hit in 2014, but our medical bills hurt now. Sadly.

We thought you would pass the DREAM Act, giving a clearer path of citizenship for those children whose parents came to this country for an opportunity, just like so many other parents have over the last few centuries. A simple memo won’t satisfy Jan Brewer nor Joe Arpaio in Arizona, so it won’t satisfy us either.

We thought you would walk with us when our unions came under attack in Illinois, Wisconsin, California, and in so many other states. I even laid out one of my most comfortable pair since we wear around the same size. Alas, you never came to pick them up.

We get that politicians generally don’t fulfill their campaign promises in full, and compromise constitutes our imperfect union as much as the general public despises compromise. Yet, those of us who see these glaring issues will hold you accountable. We need to set a more progressive agenda, one that places more importance on the poor and working class in this country than the wealthy. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work because if it did, the income gap wouldn’t keep spreading the rich and poor apart ever so slightly every second of every working and non-working hour.

Without the risk of losing the presidency four years from now, you have another opportunity to do what’s right. Again. But this time, your base won’t wait or hope. We will continue pushing for a better America, one that pushed for candidates who promoted marriage equality, women’s rights, and a truer sense of democracy. While your administration contemplates nuclear weapons in Iran and war in Syria, I worry that some of your current policies will only push the term “Democrat” into right-center.

We can’t afford that.

So I’m hoping you receive this with the knowledge that, yes, I do have some obligation to call out the racist and bigots. You are Black despite people’s misgivings about what Black ancestry means here, and you don’t have to show your transcript to irrelevant losers. You do have a cool factor that affords you the right to mention Jay-Z and Abraham Lincoln without skipping a beat.

You don’t have to listen to people who say that you were only elected by people who prefer government handouts. As demonstrated by your bailouts in the early part of your tenure, the very rich like their handouts as well. As a person, I admire the love you and your family have for each other, and the image of a popular person of color embracing the idea of “family” symbolically for the country, and that I do think Michelle, Sasha, and Malia rock in their own ways.

However, as an educator and father, I want to see you leave this country better than it currently stands for years from now. Too many people all over the country are suffering, and some of that falls squarely on your shoulders.

By the time my son has the wisdom to ask me about you, I’d love to say, with context, “Mr. Obama did right by us …” I won’t be quiet about everything else, but, as demonstrated by your re-election, this is far from over. For either of us.

Thanks in advance,

Jose

{ 0 comments }

Wherever The DREAM May Lead Us [An Education For All]

by Jose Vilson on October 25, 2012

in Jose

DREAM girl

Recently, the conversation around the use of the word “illegal immigrant” came to a precipice when the New York Times’ public editor said there was nothing wrong with using the phrase. Writers like Jose Antonio Vargas and institutions like Univision chimed in, and rightly so. “Illegal immigrant” suggests that the immigrant themselves is illegal. The very term suggests that these men, women, and children who migrate live an existence of illegality, whereas “undocumented worker,” the better alternative, suggests that the person crossing the border actually works here but has not (yet) filled out all the forms to become a full American citizen. The former puts the burden of proof on the individual, whereas the latter highlights a systemic issue.

We still have discussions about students in this situations in black and white terms. Either they all leave or they can all stay … with a caveat. Or a few. For instance, they can’t be gang bangers and drug dealers. And they can stay if they spend thousands of dollars trying to get through college. Or enlist in an army to protect a country that won’t necessarily protect them. Many of them (or their parents) still pay taxes under different social security numbers and work in some of the spaces many others won’t, but with little nuance in our discussions, we don’t get to hear about their actual lives.

More importantly, we as teachers can’t actually tell how our students got onto our rosters … until it’s too late. By too late, I mean, we end up liking them.

Educators who work in high-English Language Learner (ELL), high-poverty environments get that we as educators have to develop a relationship with them before getting to the academics. You should do so for all classrooms, but the expectation for us to build a comfort level with our kids makes a big difference. We get to know their quirks, their pains, their scents, and their styes. We find the timbre in their voices, their sauntering and hopping through the hallways, the funny way they write their q’s, the first topic they discuss when they don’t get the task, and how loud they pop their pieces of gum.

Soon after, we get to know their deficiencies in acquiring the language, the ways they use their prior knowledge to construct the new, the funny way they mix English and words in their native language. And we laugh because it might actually make more sense if every word we wrote in one language actually meant exactly the same thing in English. If we know their native tongue, we switch up our voices to a “I know I’m not supposed to do this” whisper, but when prompted again to speak in that tongue, you decline in a “I already told you I wasn’t supposed to” sorta way. Then, we insist on speaking to their parents in whichever language they prefer in a “I told your child I wouldn’t do this anymore, but you’re cool” sorta way.

We hope the best for them. We want them to think of positive aspirations and fulfill them. We tend to them. We know their names for a year. Two or three if we’re lucky. We see them grow. We clap for them a little harder in ceremonies, because they’re ours.

We can’t tell by any of this whether the students have that allow for their “right” to be here. We can only hope that this country gives them the opportunity to let them follow their dreams, wherever they may lead.

Jose, who thinks today is the last day for voting for the #LATISM Awards voting. Thank you to those who continue to support.

{ 0 comments }

You May Say I’m a DREAMer [Where We Belong]

by Jose Vilson on June 12, 2012

in Jose

An interesting story came across my desk this morning. Daniela Peraez, the valedictorian of her class, almost had to rescind her citizenship status over complications with the migra. This particular paragraph stuck with me:

Despite her uphill legal battle that lies ahead, Pelaez will head to Dartmouth College in September on a full scholarship.

As friends, family, and supporters watched Pelaez emerged confidently dressed in her white cap and gown at the North Miami Senior High School graduation, but her accomplishments recognized there went well beyond her diploma. She received the Superintendent’s Diploma of Distinction, she graduated Summa Cum Laude and she was the Valedictorian.

“Without your demonstration of kindness and sense of community I would have been deported,” she told the crowd during her speech.

Unbeknownst to most of the 311 million inhabitants of the United States of America, people who have immigrated to this country still have a dream of some nature. Even though the image of the American Dream itself has largely waned in light of recent economic troubles and, frankly, the mistreatment of those coming from Central and South America, the reality of some level of prosperity and quality of life lures even the most vulnerable. I get that the face of immigration has changed in the past century, but it bears repeating that the America’s image to the rest of the world still looks welcoming to those who can make the trek.

Once in this country, however, the current atmosphere has been less than receptive … on face value. For those with even a limited understanding of the way the economics works, you’ll know that they often play certain immigrants against people who should know better by supplying them jobs at substandard wages, denying them the right to unionize, then calling ICE on them the minute they revolt or want pay raises. Yet, and still, I’ve seen fingers lost, bruises and scars across faces, and necks shrunk from freak construction accidents. None of this deters some people from making a living so long as they can provide for their families.

Yet, the stereotype of an immigrant suggests that they (read: we) have no desire for education or prefer to go back to our countries while mooching off of this one. Sadly for these critics, most of us will stay, will create jobs where there were none, and will vote en masse based on the values and the issues. That’s why the DREAM Act is so important to us: while our parents worked dead-end jobs just to make ends meet, they expected us to do much better than us.

Just like everyone else in this country.

Until all citizens’ children have the right to go to the college of their choice, then this country can’t ask the world to give it the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Moreover, these children, whatever you believe about them, just want a place to belong. Because they do. We do.

Jose, who’s not the only one …

{ 1 comment }

DREAM Act: I Know God Has My Back

December 19, 2010 Jose
DREAM Act: A Reality

I took the train to my Mom’s house last night, hoping to help her with some of the chores, but ran out of funds. I jetted to my local bank, where a security guard sat there in a thick coat and an orange vest, calling a family member who obviously relayed some family gossip to […]

Read more →