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Superheroes are among us: College faculty battle for DACA children

The+Sadako+Sasaki+origami+peace+cranes+were+created+by+a+young+girl+trying+to+forget%0Athe+horrors+of+war.+Today%2C+these+peace+cranes+are+symbolic+of+the+struggle+of+DACA%0Achildren.
The Sadako Sasaki origami peace cranes were created by a young girl trying to forget
the horrors of war. Today, these peace cranes are symbolic of the struggle of DACA
children.

The Sadako Sasaki origami peace cranes were created by a young girl trying to forget the horrors of war. Today, these peace cranes are symbolic of the struggle of DACA children.

Illustration by Bonnie Chappell and Miguel Saucedo

Illustration by Bonnie Chappell and Miguel Saucedo

The Sadako Sasaki origami peace cranes were created by a young girl trying to forget the horrors of war. Today, these peace cranes are symbolic of the struggle of DACA children.

Miguel Saucedo, Editor-at-Large

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When we see a movie with characters in colorful costumes we normally think of our favorite superhero. They are men and women with special powers that make a difference in a fictional world and who, typically, at the end of an action-packed movie, leave us with an edification of what makes for a better world. So, what is the DNA of a superhero? In most films, our superheroes go against great odds. They fight against injustice and oppression. They’re fearless, bold and courageous. We create these fictional characters so that they live up to our expectations of what we feel we need in our society.

Parallel to the fictional characters are real heroes who live and work among us. They guide, nurture and mentor us. These unsung heroes are The Educators. Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) has heroes of their own, and today they stand and speak up for the children of DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which the Obama administration instituted in 2012.

They are the faculty and staff that teach on the social and legal aspects that impact thousands of failed children. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there were 689,800 active DACA recipients as of Sept. 4, 2017. This is superseded by the continuous, tumultuous history of the United States and its multitude of childhood arrivals that have been disingenuously swept under the rug for more than six years when the failed DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001, which offered legal residency status in return for attending college or joining the military. This was the beginning of a long and difficult battle for DACA children and families and one that PVCC faculty and staff address every day in the classrooms and labs.

Dr. Michele Marion, residential sociology faculty at PVCC said that the real issues at hand in regards to DACA are the protest against children and that somehow these children have been lost within the political and social aspects that make up our common values as Americans.

The Fearless

“I’ve been to 13 countries for my work,” said Marion, “and these are not your typical places. These countries were off the beaten path.” She looks around her simple office as if trying to remember the sentiment. “I’ve never been to any place that you can drink the water,” she said. Marion sits in a quaint little space next to the window on the second floor of the M Building. Her computer desk faces the corner; her office is purifying Zen, authentic minimalist.

On the wall in front of her desk hangs a tapestry print of Japanese design with the words: “THE SIN MUST NOT BE REPEATED,” a simple and delicate gesture that seems to recall the suffering of a past war. The art piece is a reflection of her compassion. “The Origami Cranes were made by a little girl named Sadako Sasaki,” said Marion. “She had been exposed to radiation when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. That’s when she began folding small paper cranes at the age of 12 so that each crane would carry away her pain.

Photo by Miguel Saucedo
Dr. Michele Marion, residential sociology faculty at PVCC,
stands in front of the print tapestry by Erica Weiss “Peace
Cranes.” This art piece reflects Marion’s compassion.

She had planned on making 1,000 cranes, but she never reached her goal.” “Sadako died of Leukemia in 1955,” said Marion. To understand Marion’s compassion is to first know what motivates her desire to teach and to mentor, but even further, why she is passionate about purposeful action and advocating for all people facing oppression and injustice, especially when it affects children, such as the children of DACA. Marion said that five or six years ago, parents in Central America were sending their children to the U.S. without parental chaperons. Parents hoped their children would be safe in the U.S. away from the turmoil in that part of the world. However, American adults protested with signs in cities across the country to send the children back. Marion’s eyes twitch. She looks tired. She sits up restrained and clearly, very pissed off. She fills the room with emotional fervor staring into oblivion and speaking with a controlled staccato.

“You’re protesting children; do you know what you look like when you protest children?” When Marion was a child she went with her grandparents to visit family in a small town where she grew up among Dutch Reformed and Catholic country folk. The kids in the house had been told to go outside and play. They all ran outside leaving Marion behind.

When she finally caught up to them, she found them sitting in the trees. They proceeded to throw rocks at her. One kid, atop his pompous perch, yelled out with complete disdain, “Bitch!” Marion had always felt that the reason for this rejection was because she grew up without any religion. Everyone around her knew about her untraditional upbringing. So in the end, adults shunned and kids bullied.

“I tell my students; I don’t look like the kind of person that has experienced any kind of oppression,” said Marion. “I know what it’s like to be on the outside looking in, and when you have a measure of power, you open that door and you let people in, and with that status and that privilege, I have a responsibility to open the door.

The Bold

If you find yourself unarmed and unprepared in a dark alley and come face to face with an “hombre” that looks like and talks like Dr. David Rubi, professor at PVCC, you better turn back quickly and make a run for it because it could be him. But, if you’re willing to stand your ground and fight, and take on the challenge, you just might come out the other side a better person. For the faint of heart, the invitation to walk inside his office may spark feelings of fear.

To the brave, the curiosity might be inviting, a dangerous one, but still seductive. Photos of famous humanitarians and family are tacked on the wall next to an assortment of academic achievements. On the wall to my left is a slim serape banner that wraps around Mexican Aztec artwork. A portrait of Cesar Chavez is the most prominent. Behind Rubi, is the masterpiece that seems to signify his own personal spirit; an Aztec Warrior holding vigil over his dead maiden on top of a mountain titled: “La Leyenda de los Volcanes” (The Legend of the Volcanoes).

Photo by Miguel Saucedo
Dr. David Rubi, residential Spanish faculty at PVCC, is in
fervent discussion regarding the importance of community colleges in society.

My awareness in this special place of learning is sharp and vigorous. I soon recall a distant fragment of passion I once read. As I look around the room an unexplained energy is present, as if the volcano, “Popocatepetl,” has erupted and lava flows of machismo. The atmosphere is the mist of magical realism. DACA was created to help children who were brought to the U.S. illegally at a young age.

A few basic requirements for recipients were no felony convictions, be honorably discharged from the military or have graduated high school, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. There’s an underlying anger under his calm voice as Rubi speaks about the children of DACA. His voice is like the sea whose waves billow softly on the surface but hold great power below. He is calm and good-natured. He holds fast.

He’s an old pro. Rubi, residential Spanish faculty, said there is hypocrisy within the crisis of DACA. He admits that parents did bring children into this country illegally, but questions the motives of those who first brought the parents over. “I don’t think that a lot of Americans understand that the so called illegal immigration “dilemma” was fostered and promoted by Anglo-Americans,” said Rubi, “because they needed people to work for them and hired these people despite what the people in Washington said was illegal.”

Rubi explained the difference between the Hispanic and Anglo-American cultures’ perspective of the concept and application of law in the United States. He reflects on Dr. Justo Alarcon from Arizona State University, his mentor and called him genius. Alarcon determined that the Hispanic culture follows the law of ethics and the Anglo Saxon culture follows the ethics of the law. “Now it sounds like a play on words,” said Rubi, “but it’s extremely significant.” He gives the example of the Dred Scott decision in 1857, where a black man did not have a right to go to court because he was considered property and to some degree he was not even considered human. “This was a prime example of the Anglo-Saxon point of view of the ethics of the law, instead of the law of ethics,” said Rubi. “In order for the law to be just, to be valid, it had to be moral in someway.” “And in regards to DACA,” said Rubi, “this is what these children know; this is what gives them life and sustenance. These policies have to be just and moral. It’s not a world they chose. Children don’t choose the world they’re in.”

The Courageous

I walk into an appropriately chaotic and, quite frankly, messy office. Then I realize, that there are good messes and then there is Dr. Caron Sada’s mess. Her mess is the most appropriate for a person fighting for positive change in the world. Who would suspect a gentle, soft-spoken woman who wears baseball caps as part of her professional attire, to be a proactive promoter of positive social change?

There is a humongous letter Z that sits ostentatiously on the floor. It stands for “Zeitgeist,” which in German refers to, “the spirit or the character of the times.” Zeitgeist is the positive social change symbol for Club Z, a club that helps to promote the social entrepreneurial spirit of students on the PVCC campus. According to The Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan policy institute that helps improve the lives of Americans through action and leadership, progress has advanced through DACA recipient participation in jobs, wages, education, civic participation and overall economic stability.

Photo by Miguel Saucedo
Dr. Caron Sada, residential psychology faculty at PVCC,
hosts the Sojourner play “Balance” during Women’s
History Month at PVCC.

“In the case of DACA,” said Sada, residential psychology faculty, “on one hand we make policy decisions and on the other, we send these children back to whatever circumstance they face. What does that say to who we are in the world and who we are as Americans and as a country and how we treat individuals?” Sada said that when she talks to her students about positive action and leadership, despite their differences, critical and creative thinking is very important. She teaches that communication among students has to be done with dignity and respect. She also believes that if her students want to make positive changes in the world, they must become positive social change agents.

Christopher Figueroa, PVCC student, and All-USA Academic Team member, says that positive social change looks different for different people, especially within the culture of PVCC. “I think that if you’re generalizing positive social change to benefit  or to help the world around you, there are so many ways you can help,” says Figueroa, “I just chose the one closest to my heart, and it continues to grow to something amazing.” Sada teaches how to confront difficult topics in the world with compassion. She’s a creator of future leaders. She’s a maker of superheroes that want to see change in the world. In the case of DACA, there are people everywhere involved to ally, advocate and to support, in different capacities, these failed children. The hope goes on and lies in what we do. “We have many pockets of amazing on our campus,” said Sada. “There are many opportunities to engage in positive social change.

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Superheroes are among us: College faculty battle for DACA children