1. Late-night thoughts, part 2

    Note: Still working on this post, but I didn’t want to leave the narrative on such a sour note. I’ve always been a fan of happy endings.

    Life is full of tiny turning points of the psyche, and I had my most recent one while I was reading a book for my globalization class. The book is called “In Our Own Best Interest: How Defending Human Rights Benefits Us All” by Amnesty International USA Executive Director William Schulz.

    It was a story about David Trimble, a realist politician in Northern Ireland who, for a brief moment, began to cry when Schulz asked him to think of the grieving parents of a young Catholic man beat to death by a group of Protestants on a street corner. The tears, however transient, gave Schulz the flash of recognition he needed.

    "I think Trimble is like many other so-called pragmatists, ‘realists’: he is afraid that if he allows himself access to the true terror of everybody’s suffering in Northern Ireland, he will be both emotionally overcome and forced to revise his worldview," Schulz wrote. "So when the tears break through, he has to be quick to choke them. Not only would he lose credibility with his unionist allies if he were thought to be going face-to-face with his own limitations — moral limitations (‘How have I contributed to this carnage?’) and political limitations (‘Maybe I don’t have the power to stop this’)."

    Those are some of my own biggest fears, and as I read the story of David Trimble, i began to feel some of the numbness lifting, like morning fog dispersing across a hilltop. I would rather face the realities of my limitations than live in numbness. I would rather care too much than not enough, because as Schulz put it, “to look on human agony and consistently remain unmoved is to be dead in all the ways that truly matter, dead to the mystery of pulse and breath, dead to the gifts of grace and kindness, dead to the fragility of Creation.”

    I’ll keep these words in mind as I read the day’s headlines and feel the impulse to revert to numbness, to the shield of protection against the realization of how little I can change as one person. I’ll think of them when my motivation falters and I begin to wonder why I’m doing what I’m doing. And another quote to keep in mind, this one from good old Gandhi: “What you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

    Gandhi, as usual, was right. I don’t want to be numb to human suffering, I want to expose it. That effort, however insignificant my contribution, matters.

     
  2. Late-night thoughts, part 1

    I’ve had some doubts about my passions lately. It’s a very scary thing: I define myself, as many do, by the things I care about most. Family. Art and nature. The pursuit of both knowledge and satisfaction. And, for years now, journalism.

    But these past few years have been hard. Not necessarily because of any great personal trials, but because I’m getting older, I’m learning more about the world around me, and I’m discovering what a struggle it is to arrange in my life all the things I care about without doing any of them a disservice. I’m trying to weigh the value of my hair color and lipstick shade and the number on the scale against my dreams of becoming someone who matters, against my deepest personal fears of failure and irrelevance, against my (slowly) expanding knowledge of the complex web of the world and its workings.

    I told my hairdresser I wanted to become a journalist when I was 16 years old, and I haven’t really looked back since. I’ve paused long enough to consider why I wanted to do it — a love of writing and having my questions answered, an inexplicable craving to have some impact on others’ worldview, desire for success and a need to force myself to connect with other people, an act that often scares me.

    For the past year or so, though, a sense of futility has invaded what I always thought was my passion. I’m not a religious person, but it reminds me a lot of the sensation a believer might feel when losing touch with his faith.

    My dreams of being a journalist have always existed as a constant above me, reliable as the moon. Even as the winds of changing times left the industry whipped raw, my dreams still appeared in the sky, a pale but piercing sliver that existed on a plane beyond my everyday goals and worries.

    You don’t need me to explain why journalism matters. Suffice to say I felt comforted by its importance, reassured in the fact that, by taking part in the global spread of knowledge, I, too, could be important.

    I’m not sure why it’s so important to me to be important — I’ll probably spend the rest of my life trying to figure that one out — but the more I learned about what my role here may be in relation to my 7 billion roommates, the more hopeless I began to feel. The more headlines I read about innocent men, women and children killed in a long list of countries that was beginning to melt into a mass of black type, the more pictures I saw of our world leaders looking gray and stern next to soupy piles of words that sent a message not of panic but of dull acceptance, the more dinnertime conversations that floated through my ears about nuclear war and NorthKorea’sjustadumb uncle and theTeaPartyisevil and illegalimmigrantsshouldgobackwheretheybelong and would you pass the mashed potatoes?, the more school reading assignments about how global warming will change the future of the world as we know it in 50 years, no, 30 years, no, a decade; the more phone notifications about shootings in elementary schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, playgrounds….

    It was worse than distress. I didn’t really care about suffering anymore. I was completely numb.And better numb, I thought, than truly conscious of how little impact I could have as one person.

    I don’t know how to describe the horrible sensation of reading a newspaper headline about people dying and realizing that you don’t care. Realizing that you can’t force the goosebumps that used to sprout across your legs and forearms — and fearing you may never feel them again.

    Sipping from a cup of cold coffee at a late-night cafe in my hometown last week, I tried to explain the feeling to an old friend of mine. (Forgive me for making myself sound more eloquent than I probably was.)

    "People get outraged over everything, and it’s starting to annoy me," I said. "Because you can get a million people to type their names on your petition, but you’re just gonna have to write a new one next week. The problems are never over. There are so many things to be upset about that I’d rather not care about any of them."

    I remember being in fifth grade and learning about global warming and climate change in science class, the shock that overcame me when I realized what kind of a threat these new concepts posed to our environment. I worshiped the thin veil of snow that fell over the lawns in my suburban Texas town once every January or February. It was more than I could take to imagine my children not getting to see that pathetic excuse for winter weather. That day, I wrote a letter to the Dallas Morning News about climate change, explaining the problem with my 10-year-old vocabulary words and penning what I hoped would be an ideological turning point for readers.

    Slouching over that mug of coffee, I wished so badly that I could be 10 years old again. I wished that I could make myself feel such passion again.

    I said I wanted to be a journalist so I could make people care about the world and the people living in it. And in that moment, I feared I didn’t care at all.

    (A much happier Part 2 coming shortly.)

     
  3. 16:36 10th May 2013

    Notes: 3

    Observed Scene

    It’s 1:40 in the morning at McDonald’s on 27th and Vine, and three boys are hungry.

    A high school kid clad in a Where’s Waldo beanie and thick rectangular glasses slouches next to the counter deciding what to order. Two of his baggy-jeaned, baseball-capped buddies shoot the breeze next to him, colloquialisms and curses rising spark-like from the cloud of their murmured conversation.

    "Shut up, bro."

    "Fuck, dude."

    "Nawww, man."

    The teenaged cashier stares ahead with glazed eyes, speaking five words per customer, max. The boys are next in line.

    And then they see her.

    She’s a blonde, standing alone in front of them with her feet spaced too far apart to indicate sobriety. She turns at the sounds of their voices.

    "Wait," she says, eyes narrowed. "You’re not Joe."

    Apparently not. They eye the rear view of her tight jeans and nudge each other.

    Blondie orders a McChicken and sits down at a booth in the middle of the restaurant. Five minutes later, the boys sit down a table away, and this time, she notices them.

    "Where do you go to school?" she calls out.

    They look down at their trays. Southeast, one of them says.

    Turns out, Blondie doesn’t go for younger men. She says she’s in college — “a junior in my sorority.”

    "How many of you can buy alcohol without someone having to go with you?" Blondie says. One of the guys raises his hand a little, then lowers it. Silence.

    "You got a boyfriend?" Beanie asks.

    Her boyfriend’s in line. He’s tall, dressed in a suede jacket and cowboy boots. He looks like he can buy his own alcohol.

    Boyfriend strides to the booth and eyes the guys like they’re a half-empty case of Miller High Life.

    "You guys better shut up," he says. Girlfriend eats her McChicken as if it offended her, licking ketchup from her fingers. Boyfriend sits close, so their thighs touch.

    Rejected, the boys move tables.

    In the corner, an old man watches Fox News and reads the New York Times as he eats french fries. A redheaded McDonald’s employee with a tattoo at the nape of her neck shakes her head in my direction as she empties the trash can. Kids these days.

    Initially, the scene appears to be over. My friend slides from the red plastic stool beside me to answer his ringing iPhone.

    And then they see me.

    Beanie comes over with his friend to throw away the straw wrappers on his tray.

    "Tell this dude ‘no,’" he says to me, pointing at the kid with two glittery earrings and a matching smirk.

    I smile, but keep staring at my notebook. Beanie looks like a character off ‘Malcolm in the Middle,’ I write in a scribble I’ll barely be able to read later.

    "Hey," Beanie sits down on the stool across from me. "You doin’ homework or something?"

    Damn it.

    I tell them I have an assignment to observe what I see at McDonald’s.

    "Dude," Beanie’s eyes light up, "she’s writing about us! Can I see it?"

    We argue about the contents of my notebook for a minute until his friend butts in.

    "So, you like white guys with beanies?"

    "She has a boyfriend, dude," the other chimes in.

    I laugh, because the male friend I walked in with is gay.

    "That’s not my boyfriend."

    Beanie takes this as an invitation. He gets closer. I notice his sweatshirt — emblazoned with a diamond and the words “All that glitters is gold.” His folded hands creep past his side of the tabletop.

    "Why does it always have to be about boyfriend/girlfriend?" he grins. "We can just be friends. Can I see what you wrote?"

    No. My friend re-enters the dining room to crows of  "dude, that kid’s hitting on your girlfriend."

    He swears we’re not dating, but no one seems to believe us, probably because we were sharing a milkshake with two straws and I laughed at all his “Gossip Girl” jokes. Beanie, 0 for 2, jumps out of his seat but introduces himself before he goes. His name, it turns out, is Darien.

    "It was nice to meet you," he says, headed toward the bathroom.

    "Dude, other way," his friend laughs.

    "Do that all the time," Beanie says as he leaves, taking one last look back. The redhead shakes her head again as she sweeps. The old man flips the page of his newspaper. Beanie’s lace-up Vans squeak as he retreats into another Friday night, into a parade of just-a-little tipsy drivers heading home from fizzling parties, lonely street sweepers beginning their nightly routes and stars cradling the moon high in the sky.

     
  4. 14:08 28th Mar 2013

    Notes: 3

    Tags: journalism

    My greatest flaw

    Over a meal of Runza cheeseburgers and french fries late this morning, my best friend and I had a conversation about our flaws.

    "Your biggest flaw — no offense — is maybe that you have trouble connecting to people," he said.

    Maybe a few months ago, I would’ve been offended. Today, I wasn’t. Because I know my friend is right.

    I’m a shy person. Like countless other people everywhere, interacting with people I don’t know makes me uncomfortable. I remember the first time I realized I was shy, back in fourth grade when I transferred schools for the first time. Suddenly, I didn’t know the favorite games, dolls and ice cream flavors of all of my classmates. I couldn’t conjure up 5-year-old memories of my adventures on the playground with them. I didn’t know what to say to my new classmates. So I didn’t talk.

    And sometimes, even 10 years later, I still feel like a fourth grader who’s new in school. I’ve gotten over what used to be debilitating shyness, but the trait is still a part of me. And I know it holds me back in journalism, a career that’s all about fostering connections with people you’ve never met.

    I’ve been asking myself this question for a while now: Why do I want to be a journalist if I have the wrong personality for the job? Lately, I think I’ve come closer to my answer.

    I don’t want to be a journalist because I’m good at connecting with people. I want to be a journalist became I see the value in those connections, however difficult they are to come by.

    I don’t have an expansive circle of close relationships, but the ones I do have are the most important part of my life. To me, they are worth more than anything. I live for moments of true honesty with others: learning a secret, seeing tears fall from someone’s eyes, giving a loved one the understanding he or she desperately craves.

    I want to be a journalist because it’s a career that forces me to confront my fears and better myself. I refuse to run away my flaws — I want a job that makes me look them in the face every day, until I’ve conquered them.

     
  5. Dallas Morning News reporter Scott Goldstein on “Why it’s still a good time to be a young journalist.”

     
  6. 01:44 29th Oct 2012

    Notes: 1

    But ‘why’ questions are exhausting — they necessitate the reexamination of what has, for better or for worse, been accepted, and they’re disruptive, and they often start fights.
    — Ron Suskind, The Price Of Loyalty
     
  7. 
I wrote this article about immigration reform and the young people it will affect. It ran in the Grand Island Independent today.
By Jacy Marmaduke
He remembers two black cars pulling up alongside a dusty playground in Chihuahua, Mexico. Two faceless drivers exchanging unheard words. A round of gunshots ripping a trail through the afternoon like Roman candles.
All the children froze. Twelve-year-old Juan Gallegos leapt from the rusted swing set and ran to the haven of the school, ducking beneath the window of a crowded classroom, breathing hard. Recess ended early that day.
It was 2001. The Mexican corn economy had collapsed, leaving Juan’s father with no buyers for his deli meats and cheeses — now deemed luxury products. There was no money for food, and drug violence rose like a murmur in a quiet room.
So the Gallegos family — Juan, his parents and two brothers — deserted the three-room house where Juan had learned to walk, making the 24-hour drive to America in a borrowed blue pickup. Although the family’s visitor visa expired within six months, they would never return to Mexico.
“When you have to feed a child, you’re going to do whatever it takes,” Juan said. “And crossing a border is a lot less than joining a drug cartel.”
The Gallegos family came to Hastings to lead a new life undocumented. For Juan’s parents, that meant working below minimum wage to strip fat from pig carcasses on an assembly line and repair machinery at the meatpacking plant, scraping to meet each month’s rent without federal aid. It meant relentless fear of deportation. It meant life in the shadows.
But that all could change for Juan and his brothers — at least temporarily.
President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy now offers young people such as Juan a chance to attain a two-year reprieve from deportation, a work permit and maybe even a driver’s license. However, the policy doesn’t offer Juan what he craves most: a path to citizenship.
“This is a critical step, and it’s going to make a huge difference in the short term for these young people. But at the end of the day, it’s not a long-term solution for them,” said Becky Gould, executive director of Nebraska Appleseed, a nonprofit law firm that works for justice and equal opportunity in the state.
A long-term solution, Gould said, would mean a complete turnaround in the immigration system. She said the system doesn’t recognize an increased need for workers in a country where meatpacking plants, textile factories and construction projects have increased tenfold in the past several decades.
For many prospective immigrants, there’s simply no line to stand in for legal citizenship.
“There’s a big hole in the middle of the system where, if you don’t qualify for a high-skilled business visa and you don’t already have family here with immigration status, there’s essentially no way for you to apply,” said Darcy Tromanhauser, Nebraska Appleseed’s program director for immigrant integration and civic participation.
The problem is, nobody seems to know about that hole.
“The (public) reaction usually is, ‘That’s crazy!’” Tromanhauser said. “’Why aren’t we doing anything about it?’”
Policy parallels DREAM Act
Obama introduced the deferred action policy in June, but the policy draws parallels with the DREAM Act, a bundle of proposed legislation that’s made congressional rounds every year since 2001 — and failed each time.
Versions of the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act reflect a range of subtle differences, but the concept is the same for all: Certain young undocumented immigrants would have six years to obtain a college degree and become American citizens.
But for some, that proposal is more nightmare than dream.
“It completely undermines the role of law,” said Kristen Williamson, spokeswoman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nonprofit that seeks to end illegal immigration and establish tighter quotas for legal immigration. “It sends the message that, as long as you get over the border and don’t commit any violent crimes, you’ll be granted amnesty and allowed to stay in the country.”
U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns voted against the DREAM Act twice in the 111th Congress, and he has publicly decried Obama’s executive directive as “blatantly ignoring the Constitution and the will of the Congress.” Gov. Dave Heineman said the state will continue to deny driver’s licenses to successful applicants because they are not “legal citizens.”
A learning, a dreamer
Cruising down Hastings Avenue in a yellow Ford Cougar his father restored, 23-year-old Juan Gallegos smiles when he notes the red brick building where he learned English.
He has always liked school. He walked from his first home, a studio apartment where he slept on a pull-out couch with his two brothers, to Hastings Middle School every morning and was always 30 minutes early.
In 2011, Juan graduated from the University of Nebraska Kearney with a multimedia degree — the first in his family to graduate from college. He wants to use the degree to manage his web and graphic design business, Conexion Bilingual Marketing & Printing. He also wants to work with social justice organizations and create an Internet presence for small businesses in Central Nebraska.
With money from his business, he could buy a house and support his parents, who still work at the meatpacking plant, and his brothers, who work on irrigation projects in the fields while saving up for college. But without citizenship, Juan can’t get a loan to fund his dream.
So, in the meantime, he works at odd jobs. He helps community members with web design in exchange for a cup of coffee or a Runza. He just finished an internship in Colorado with two gay and immigrant rights groups. He campaigns for immigration reform and attends conferences around the country with organizations such as United We Dream, a network of youth-led immigrant groups.
And in 2010, when the DREAM Act finally passed for the first time in the House of Representatives, no one was watching closer than Juan. He shouted, “Si, se puede,” (meaning “Yes, it is possible” or “Yes, we can”) in the streets of Grand Island with hundreds of other “Dreamers” marching for immigration reform. He watched the wind of public support fill the sails of a movement.
And then he watched as the DREAM Act failed in the Senate — by five votes.
Sitting in the familiar Blue Moon coffee shop in Hastings, Juan didn’t fight the tears.
“We’ve been living here for years and years, and you finally see a little window, and that window is closed by (five) votes.”
To cope, he started drinking — every weekend. At 21, he netted a misdemeanor for supplying alcohol to minors — a group of his drinking buddies.
“It was a low point in my life,” he said. “I know that’s not the person I am. I’m not a drunk.”
When the deferred action policy passed this year, the window that had closed in 2010 seemed to open again — if only by a crack.
“It wasn’t what we were looking for, but it was something,” Juan said. “It was hope.”
Public support needed
As the cycle of immigration influx and native backlash ebbs and flows, Nebraska Appleseed’s Gould said America has a lesson to learn: Change isn’t bad.
“This is the lesson we keep not learning,” she said. “Now is a moment for us to step forward as a country and say, ‘We’re not going to do this anymore.’”
The question for immigration reform isn’t how but when, Gould said. Lawmakers already have laid out most of the framework for reform, but Gould and Tromanhauser said both parties will have to work in unison to pass further legislation.
Eventually, public support could be the push the reform movement needs. A Bloomberg National Poll conducted in June showed 64 percent approval of the deferred action policy.
Jose Soto, vice president for Access, Equity and Diversity at Southeast Community College, said the public needs to hear the stories of undocumented immigrants who aspire to achieve legal status. As a Puerto Rican who came to Arkansas in the 1950s, when water fountains were still segregated by skin color, Soto said he identifies with the struggle of emerging from society’s margins.
“These are young people who are valedictorians and honor students and volunteers in hospitals and schools,” said Soto, who has a law degree. “They’re doing great things. We need to tell those stories.”
Waiting and hoping
And what about Juan’s story?
Soon, he will apply for deferred action. If he’s accepted, he can obtain a work permit to raise seed money for his business.
But he also has a traffic cone in the way of his future: a criminal record. The misdemeanor from two years ago wasn’t a violent crime, but it’s a smudge on his record all the same.
As for how that smudge affects his status, Juan will have to wait and see, just like thousands of other undocumented immigrants.
Meanwhile, he thinks of the youth immigration conference he attended at 21 that turned his life around, of meeting dozens of people with stories like his own. He thinks of the time he rallied in front of the White House, standing beside undocumented immigrants chained to each other in their caps and gowns. He thinks of the mobs of protestors dressed in white, gushing through the streets of Los Angeles, Denver, Grand Island, like water through a pipe. And he has hope.
“That’s maybe why we’re dreamers,” Juan said. “Because we’re willing to do a lot, even if it seems impossible. We’re going to look for ways to demonstrate that it’s not.”
——
About Deferred Action
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program offers undocumented immigrants — 30 or younger with a clean background and high school diploma who came here before they were 16 — a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit.
For some, it could mean the ability to attain a driver’s license. But the policy provides no path to citizenship.
President Barack Obama announced an executive directive to de-emphasize deportation of young undocumented immigrants in June, and the Homeland Security Department began accepting applications for the deferred action policy on Aug. 15.
As of mid-October, about 180,000 people had applied for the deferred action program, and about 4,600 had been approved, according to an Oct. 12 Washington Post article. No applications have been rejected, but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will take about two months to reject an application.
The policy could apply to as many as 1.7 million people, according to Pew Hispanic Center research.

    I wrote this article about immigration reform and the young people it will affect. It ran in the Grand Island Independent today.

    By Jacy Marmaduke

    He remembers two black cars pulling up alongside a dusty playground in Chihuahua, Mexico. Two faceless drivers exchanging unheard words. A round of gunshots ripping a trail through the afternoon like Roman candles.

    All the children froze. Twelve-year-old Juan Gallegos leapt from the rusted swing set and ran to the haven of the school, ducking beneath the window of a crowded classroom, breathing hard. Recess ended early that day.

    It was 2001. The Mexican corn economy had collapsed, leaving Juan’s father with no buyers for his deli meats and cheeses — now deemed luxury products. There was no money for food, and drug violence rose like a murmur in a quiet room.

    So the Gallegos family — Juan, his parents and two brothers — deserted the three-room house where Juan had learned to walk, making the 24-hour drive to America in a borrowed blue pickup. Although the family’s visitor visa expired within six months, they would never return to Mexico.

    “When you have to feed a child, you’re going to do whatever it takes,” Juan said. “And crossing a border is a lot less than joining a drug cartel.”

    The Gallegos family came to Hastings to lead a new life undocumented. For Juan’s parents, that meant working below minimum wage to strip fat from pig carcasses on an assembly line and repair machinery at the meatpacking plant, scraping to meet each month’s rent without federal aid. It meant relentless fear of deportation. It meant life in the shadows.

    But that all could change for Juan and his brothers — at least temporarily.

    President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy now offers young people such as Juan a chance to attain a two-year reprieve from deportation, a work permit and maybe even a driver’s license. However, the policy doesn’t offer Juan what he craves most: a path to citizenship.

    “This is a critical step, and it’s going to make a huge difference in the short term for these young people. But at the end of the day, it’s not a long-term solution for them,” said Becky Gould, executive director of Nebraska Appleseed, a nonprofit law firm that works for justice and equal opportunity in the state.

    A long-term solution, Gould said, would mean a complete turnaround in the immigration system. She said the system doesn’t recognize an increased need for workers in a country where meatpacking plants, textile factories and construction projects have increased tenfold in the past several decades.

    For many prospective immigrants, there’s simply no line to stand in for legal citizenship.

    “There’s a big hole in the middle of the system where, if you don’t qualify for a high-skilled business visa and you don’t already have family here with immigration status, there’s essentially no way for you to apply,” said Darcy Tromanhauser, Nebraska Appleseed’s program director for immigrant integration and civic participation.

    The problem is, nobody seems to know about that hole.

    “The (public) reaction usually is, ‘That’s crazy!’” Tromanhauser said. “’Why aren’t we doing anything about it?’”

    Policy parallels DREAM Act

    Obama introduced the deferred action policy in June, but the policy draws parallels with the DREAM Act, a bundle of proposed legislation that’s made congressional rounds every year since 2001 — and failed each time.

    Versions of the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act reflect a range of subtle differences, but the concept is the same for all: Certain young undocumented immigrants would have six years to obtain a college degree and become American citizens.

    But for some, that proposal is more nightmare than dream.

    “It completely undermines the role of law,” said Kristen Williamson, spokeswoman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nonprofit that seeks to end illegal immigration and establish tighter quotas for legal immigration. “It sends the message that, as long as you get over the border and don’t commit any violent crimes, you’ll be granted amnesty and allowed to stay in the country.”

    U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns voted against the DREAM Act twice in the 111th Congress, and he has publicly decried Obama’s executive directive as “blatantly ignoring the Constitution and the will of the Congress.” Gov. Dave Heineman said the state will continue to deny driver’s licenses to successful applicants because they are not “legal citizens.”

    A learning, a dreamer

    Cruising down Hastings Avenue in a yellow Ford Cougar his father restored, 23-year-old Juan Gallegos smiles when he notes the red brick building where he learned English.

    He has always liked school. He walked from his first home, a studio apartment where he slept on a pull-out couch with his two brothers, to Hastings Middle School every morning and was always 30 minutes early.

    In 2011, Juan graduated from the University of Nebraska Kearney with a multimedia degree — the first in his family to graduate from college. He wants to use the degree to manage his web and graphic design business, Conexion Bilingual Marketing & Printing. He also wants to work with social justice organizations and create an Internet presence for small businesses in Central Nebraska.

    With money from his business, he could buy a house and support his parents, who still work at the meatpacking plant, and his brothers, who work on irrigation projects in the fields while saving up for college. But without citizenship, Juan can’t get a loan to fund his dream.

    So, in the meantime, he works at odd jobs. He helps community members with web design in exchange for a cup of coffee or a Runza. He just finished an internship in Colorado with two gay and immigrant rights groups. He campaigns for immigration reform and attends conferences around the country with organizations such as United We Dream, a network of youth-led immigrant groups.

    And in 2010, when the DREAM Act finally passed for the first time in the House of Representatives, no one was watching closer than Juan. He shouted, “Si, se puede,” (meaning “Yes, it is possible” or “Yes, we can”) in the streets of Grand Island with hundreds of other “Dreamers” marching for immigration reform. He watched the wind of public support fill the sails of a movement.

    And then he watched as the DREAM Act failed in the Senate — by five votes.

    Sitting in the familiar Blue Moon coffee shop in Hastings, Juan didn’t fight the tears.

    “We’ve been living here for years and years, and you finally see a little window, and that window is closed by (five) votes.”

    To cope, he started drinking — every weekend. At 21, he netted a misdemeanor for supplying alcohol to minors — a group of his drinking buddies.

    “It was a low point in my life,” he said. “I know that’s not the person I am. I’m not a drunk.”

    When the deferred action policy passed this year, the window that had closed in 2010 seemed to open again — if only by a crack.

    “It wasn’t what we were looking for, but it was something,” Juan said. “It was hope.”

    Public support needed

    As the cycle of immigration influx and native backlash ebbs and flows, Nebraska Appleseed’s Gould said America has a lesson to learn: Change isn’t bad.

    “This is the lesson we keep not learning,” she said. “Now is a moment for us to step forward as a country and say, ‘We’re not going to do this anymore.’”

    The question for immigration reform isn’t how but when, Gould said. Lawmakers already have laid out most of the framework for reform, but Gould and Tromanhauser said both parties will have to work in unison to pass further legislation.

    Eventually, public support could be the push the reform movement needs. A Bloomberg National Poll conducted in June showed 64 percent approval of the deferred action policy.

    Jose Soto, vice president for Access, Equity and Diversity at Southeast Community College, said the public needs to hear the stories of undocumented immigrants who aspire to achieve legal status. As a Puerto Rican who came to Arkansas in the 1950s, when water fountains were still segregated by skin color, Soto said he identifies with the struggle of emerging from society’s margins.

    “These are young people who are valedictorians and honor students and volunteers in hospitals and schools,” said Soto, who has a law degree. “They’re doing great things. We need to tell those stories.”

    Waiting and hoping

    And what about Juan’s story?

    Soon, he will apply for deferred action. If he’s accepted, he can obtain a work permit to raise seed money for his business.

    But he also has a traffic cone in the way of his future: a criminal record. The misdemeanor from two years ago wasn’t a violent crime, but it’s a smudge on his record all the same.

    As for how that smudge affects his status, Juan will have to wait and see, just like thousands of other undocumented immigrants.

    Meanwhile, he thinks of the youth immigration conference he attended at 21 that turned his life around, of meeting dozens of people with stories like his own. He thinks of the time he rallied in front of the White House, standing beside undocumented immigrants chained to each other in their caps and gowns. He thinks of the mobs of protestors dressed in white, gushing through the streets of Los Angeles, Denver, Grand Island, like water through a pipe. And he has hope.

    “That’s maybe why we’re dreamers,” Juan said. “Because we’re willing to do a lot, even if it seems impossible. We’re going to look for ways to demonstrate that it’s not.”

    ——

    About Deferred Action

    The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program offers undocumented immigrants — 30 or younger with a clean background and high school diploma who came here before they were 16 — a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit.

    For some, it could mean the ability to attain a driver’s license. But the policy provides no path to citizenship.

    President Barack Obama announced an executive directive to de-emphasize deportation of young undocumented immigrants in June, and the Homeland Security Department began accepting applications for the deferred action policy on Aug. 15.

    As of mid-October, about 180,000 people had applied for the deferred action program, and about 4,600 had been approved, according to an Oct. 12 Washington Post article. No applications have been rejected, but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will take about two months to reject an application.

    The policy could apply to as many as 1.7 million people, according to Pew Hispanic Center research.

     
  8. 02:07 18th Oct 2012

    Notes: 1

    Tags: journalism

    A note on moderators and my new minor

    Who’s been watching all the presidential debates? Hope you raised your hand, even though that’s kind of a weird response to a question you read on a computer screen. Anyway, I watched the vice presidential debate in its entirety and the first and second presidential debates in pieces, but I don’t want to talk about the debaters.

    I want to talk about the moderators.

    I think we can all agree that Martha Raddatz absolutely killed it as moderator for the vp debate.

    First, she kept firm control of the discussion — remember the way she steered the conversation to Iran with a no-nonsense “Let’s move to Iran”?

    Second, if Jim Lehrer’s questions were sporks, Raddatz’s questions were spears — sharp, efficient, to-the-point. And she didn’t let either candidate get away without answering her queries, whether she sought the definition of Biden’s “stuff” euphemism or the exact math behind Ryan’s tax and budget plans.

    That’s great journalism. Did she show some editorializing at parts of the debate? Sure. But she got her questions answered and she moderated a lively debate that was the cayenne pepper to the first presidential debate’s watercress.

    You go, Martha.

    And on another note: I’m declaring a political science minor. Not sure if I want to cover politics as a career, but I sure do love reading about them and I think a solid understanding of our government is essential for any journalist.

     
  9. The difference between journalism and literature is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.
    — Oscar Wilde (via parhelions)
     
  10. 16:15 21st Sep 2012

    Notes: 9

    Reblogged from

    Journalism can only be literature when it is passionate.
    — (via christopher-bush)