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Awaiting DREAM Act, illegal student in U.S. compares himself to Superman

December 16, 2010 |  2:26 pm

Erickhuerta_zocalo "Once, when I was seven, I fell asleep in Michoacan and woke in Boyle Heights. No joke."

This is how a young writer and journalist in East Los Angeles named Erick Huerta begins telling his story. Huerta, 26, is a student and undocumented immigrant, stuck in a legal and cultural bind between two countries. He was born in Mexico and brought to the U.S. illegally as a child, like many others whose parents were lured to the U.S. by economic prospects. He finished high school, entered college and is now as culturally "American" as anyone else.

Should he be deported to a country he doesn't know, or should his status be normalized under the DREAM Act?

The proposed law, built around an energetic grass-roots effort, would give certain undocumented students like Huerta -- or those entering the U.S. military -- conditional legal status in the United States.

Huerta, in an essay published by Zocalo Public Square, writes that his experience has made him analogous to ... Superman? He explains:

I guess I should be inspired by Superman, arguably the most accomplished of all "illegal aliens." Literally, in his case, as he came from another planet as an infant because his parents wanted to give him a better life when his home world was annihilated. He landed on earth and was raised in the Midwest by a loving couple to become a symbol for truth, justice and the American way. Last time I checked, he was still working at the Daily Planet, getting by under the name of "Clark Kent." I hope that the e-verify system doesn't catch up with him someday; where would ICE deport him?

Huerta uses humor to address a serious and complex issue that directly affects his future and that of thousands like him. But the DREAM Act's own future is uncertain. It's had a long and nail-biting journey through Congress, tabled and revived several times, a political ping-pong ball in the bitter and often hate-filled debate over reforming the country's "badly broken immigration system."

Those are President Obama's exact words, in a statement congratulating the House of Representatives for passing the DREAM Act Dec. 8. Despite strong grass-roots opposition to the DREAM Act among Republicans, the House passed it by a vote of 216 to 198. Obama and most Democrats in Congress want the DREAM Act passed before the end of this year's lame-duck session. The bill is now before the Senate.

A Republican filibuster would require all of the chamber's 57 Democrats to join at least three Republicans or independents to pass the DREAM Act. The bill is currently delayed pending a future vote.

Read Erick Huerta's entire essay here.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Image: An artist's rendering of Erick Huerta, "the intrepid reporter."  Credit: Zocalo Public Square

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