As a young person, whenever I was asked about my heritage, I'd flatly declare that I was Mexican.
Until I was 18, our family plan was to move from our home in San Jose to Mexico, where my parents were raised.
I was Mexican first for many years, until one day I wasn't.
This transformation didn't happen overnight, but only after I grew invested in the nation where I was born and raised.
A college degree, a career, a marriage, mortgage, friends, dreams all mixed in a whirl of years that shook every belief I had.
When given the choice to assimilate, I did gratefully.
It's my experience that many Latinos have done the same. We may retain places in our hearts for the old country, but we also pay taxes, contribute to our communities and American life.
Our people are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Spanish surnames are carved in war memorials in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. For those reasons and many others, the DREAM Act deserves to be approved by the U.S. Senate and become law before Congress breaks for Christmas.
What is this and why advocate for it?
As Edward Schumacher-Matos wrote in the Washington Post last week: "What that Latino heart says is that we, too, are American. We, too, believe in the American creed, the rule of law, the righteousness of the work ethic, the exceptionalism of American history and the justice of American democracy."
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