Neto's Tucson: Tucson 'Dreamer' follows promise of job, driver's license to California

2013-06-09T00:00:00Z Neto's Tucson: Tucson 'Dreamer' follows promise of job, driver's license to CaliforniaErnesto Portillo Jr. Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

When we last left Carlos Martinez, the Tucson "Dreamer" who last year received a work permit and two-year temporary residency under Deferred Action, he said that if a job and driver's license were unavailable in Arizona, he would leave.

Next week, he departs for California, where he has job waiting for him.

Global giant IBM has hired Martinez, who until September had lived in the shadows as an undocumented immigrant but is now free to work and walk free of fear. Years of living in the darkness of potential deportation have evaporated for Martinez, 31, and are being replaced with a future of bright expectations.

"It's unbelievable," he said, trying to find the words to describe his emotions, which have risen and fallen along with the country's debate over immigration reform. He finally settled on "beautiful."

Beautiful it is.

Martinez, whom I wrote about last September, was one of the first in the country to receive Deferred Action status. He stands among more than 12,000 people in Arizona and more than 290,000 nationwide who have received temporary residency under the program initiated by the Obama administration in August, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services figures show.

Dreamers are undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children by their parents and who have grown up, graduated from high school and college, and, in many cases, worked, all the while looking over their shoulders for immigration agents.

In his case, he was 9 years old when his parents brought him and his older brother, Salvador, here from Cananea, Sonora, in 1991. His father did manual labor, his mother cared for their home, and he and his brother studied.

Martinez earned a bachelor's degree in computer engineering and a master's degree in software systems engineering. His brother earned a degree in electrical engineering, gained legal residency and has applied for U.S. citizenship.

Martinez will take his skills and energy to San Francisco, where he'll work in software sales. His heart, however, will remain with his fellow Dreamers. He plans to continue to advise Dreamers and serve as a role model.

"By sharing my story I can raise hope," he said.

That's something he and the other thousands of other Dreamers need plenty of.

The U.S. Senate last week began debate on immigration reform, hammered out by a bipartisan Senate ad-hoc group, which could lead millions of undocumented immigrants to legal residency. Republicans in the U.S. House are vigorously resisting the Senate version, and passage will be difficult, if not impossible.

Even Deferred Action is temporary and could be revoked by a future president not named Obama.

Even as Martinez underwent IBM's scrutiny and hiring process, his Deferred Action status befuddled IBM's human resource department.

Martinez said he received several inquiries about his immigration status. Was he a foreign student? Does he have a special work visa? Does he have a sponsor?

Martinez chuckled as he recounted the rich irony - the immigration queries came from India.

With immigration questions asked and answered, plane ticket in hand, Martinez now will focus on the more mundane, but immediate, task of finding a place to live. Leaving his family is bittersweet, but he is not conflicted about leaving Arizona and its strident rejection of Dreamers. Gov. Jan Brewer has denied driver's licenses to Dreamers, a position upheld by a federal judge in Phoenix.

However, Martinez will work, contribute positively and pay taxes in California.

He also will get a driver's license.

Ernesto "Neto" Portillo Jr. is editor of La Estrella de Tucsón. He can be reached at (520) 573-4187 or at netopjr@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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