Deferred Action, The Sleepless Night

Both a day laborer and a scholar, he reflects on the policy, his life, and his place in America.

It’s another night, the moon is out, I can’t sleep. Today, I went to the bookstore looking for interpretation of dreams by Sigmund Freud. Sometimes I wonder what the dream can show us. I can’t sleep, my mother tells me to get my paper work done for the immigration action that the president has passed. I have been doing good since the time I quit the labor agency, the place where I would go and read and drink coffee, cleaning sky rises close to the university by Daly City. It is a town far away from this one close to San Francisco, the workers were people that fell off the social ladder, the Mexican workers came from some town in the depth of that old and forgotten country, they are like me, but I am not like them. I feel an awkward sense of misplacement telling them that I had gone to the university, and for some reason I shut my mouth, because to a day laborer things like that sound pretentious. It’s hard knowing that freedom is at your fingertips, I found a job away from digging holes for plumbers, digging six feet into the earth to find a clogged pipe or staying late hours underpaid in a construction site that could care less about what you do outside of work, or if you even have money to come back the next day. Sometimes you get good weeks before the market fell and houses were valued, and buying houses were the capitalism of this country. I rode with two other workers then, worked from morning till odd hours into the night and gained a place among the crew, but working odd hours into the night became my life. I never knew anything else other than hammering nails and screwing lags into wooden beams. For a day laborer ambitions such as the ones I see immigrants in colleges have are too far gone, but I remember that I had paid my way through several classes, and was liked by my teachers, sometimes for my work and sometimes for my person, but dreams like that only last so long and exhaust the heart when he realizes that such dreams are not for one to have.

I remember when I heard the news of the Deferred Action, I had heard that I could gain a form of residence in the country. It is something that I still don’t know how to feel about. I have lived in America all of my remembered life, I know no other world, no other country and for the longest, and have learned what my fathers had learned when they were young men, foreigners to this country -- that this place is not our home, and that someday we would be turned away from it. But the policy which benefits me who went to school and who’s long years are still considered young have an opportunity that most immigrants still don’t have. My buddies from the companies call me in the morning and ask me about the “law”, that I could become American they say, but I tell them that the policy is made to only give me a work permit, that I don’t need it, and they seem to be offended by my answer, but the opposite is just as hard. I can’t seem to come to grips with that reality, the one where I can drive, or go to school, something that had been denied to me, and made me rage against its unkind gesture to my person, for that had led me to go into my venture as a scholar to prove something, to defy my luck, and this rage, that stemmed from the complacent attitude towards immigrants made me into a man of letters. I am not a scholar anymore, and I can’t learn anymore, I have learned the lesson long ago, because I was raised as an American, with a tint of its entitlement, but this is the mark of a man that never asked for nothing from the American world, that sustained his arrogance, his virtue in the face of charity, because that world that dislikes me so, does it not out of a realization of their error but out of a misplaced benevolence, and the world of free man is something foreign to me, and the strife that is afforded to the ones that I have lived so with, we are  the best of capitalism, we stand outside hardware stores, make deals with Americans that pay us to build their homes, lay out concrete on their driveways, start routes in a rich neighborhood landscaping, and this is the ambition we are hated for. Because we are born with a hustle, I never had a dream that was not my own, but dreams are strange things, simple and without pretentions. I don’t seem to recall much of them, and if they do come they don’t have the same effect that they do for a child. It’s hard to take the news that one is now able to work like the rest of the population.

Deferred action is a policy that gives rights to someone, a few, this policy, although well meaning, is not something I am easily able to grasp, it is made for someone else. I tell my friends that I will think about it, that I am doing something else that I don’t want it, but they say that I am being stupid, that I should get it, I am not a kid anymore. The hardness of labor and work have taught me something different, that I am not like the American, and even though some of them, a lot of them are well meaning they seem to live in a country entirely different from the one I have lived in. But I don’t have the dreams I once had, whatever they may have been.

I remember the story of Joseph who was loved by his father, our town is named after him, it is the town I have lived in since I was brought here from Mexico. There are many Joseph’s in the history of mankind, it is hard to say who the Catholics named this place after, but the insignias of the hay is marked as its seal, the story begins when Joseph reveals a dream to his brothers that he had dreamt that he was a stack of hay, and that his brothers were stacks of hay too, that they surrounded him in a circle. But his brothers did not understand his brother’s innocence and took it as arrogance. In anger, they sold him off as a slave to Egyptians, and there he was imprisoned, and in the prison he revealed dreams to the inmates and one day he tells  a prisoner that he would be released. That the man’s dream had been one of freedom and he tells him to remember him when he is free, to speak to the king on behalf of him, but the man forgets, and Joseph remains in the prison. I can not claim to be as worthy as Joseph in his steadfastness but his faith in the lord is enough, because his nobility was unbreakable, for he was released from the bond of that prison, and his dream was granted, but dreams like his are not wishes to be granted but revelations. I am not a dreamer, but the liberty granted to us all, is yet a reminder of the first dreamer, who was an alien under the weight of an empire, and who was sent to live as criminal, and who’s dream is now the symbol of our city.

I lived illegally in this country since I was a boy, and have no claim to see the future, but only to see the past, and in the construction sites where we are sent I feel displaced among the men, because they say that I am supposed to be in school or that I am not made to be toiling in the gutter for scraps, but I remind them that I am like them, that I am a Mexican, for them the dream has not come and they want someone to have the right to this new policy, and I am the one let out into the world without the biddings of prohibitions, I am granted that freedom. This life of hustling has marked me as a foreign capitalist, and illegal, which means criminal, but the ambitions as a scholar, of being a student, that I could be something better don’t have the same resonance to a day laborer, because being better is in heart not in ones position or caste of an empire, and for that same steadfastness of virtue and patience that marked the first dreamer is what we should be thankful for, and remind us that we were once like them in the land that we fled from, and the lord granted us this not from law but from mercy.

About Marcos Reyes

A contributor to multiple news outlets, Reyes is a rare literary mind that writes on the struggles of working class America.

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