Hartmann: Living the St. Louis Dream

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What could be more St. Louis?
What could be more St. Louis? DAVID WILSON/FLICKR

When Eduardo moved to St. Louis from Denver four years ago to take a job at Anheuser-Busch, one thing jumped out at him more than any other: his new hometown’s love affair with its sports teams.

“Growing up in Denver, everyone was really big into the Broncos and football, but not so much with the other sports,“ the 30-year-old says. “The biggest thing I’ve noticed about St. Louis is its passion for its sports — obviously the Cardinals and the Blues — in a way that’s really different from what I grew up with.”

Eduardo is a city resident who works on the supply side in the brewing and packaging division of “Anheuser-Busch.” That’s in quotes because he corrected me when I referred to the company as “InBev,” pointing that while “Anheuser-Busch InBev” is technically correct, St. Louisans at the brewery still prefer to call it by its old name.

You wouldn’t know Eduardo has only lived here four years. He and his wife of two years have fallen in love with the city, and in particular with hanging out in the Delmar Loop, as well as with that sports obsession. She has a good job in the city, too.

“One of the things I really enjoy about St. Louis is that it has all the perks of a major city, but still has a neighborly vibe,” Eduardo says. “We love to go to the Loop for dinner and then go to the Pageant or Delmar Hall. You can see some great bands from all over the country — some really amazing artists — but you don’t feel like you’re one of a million people. You’re just a St. Louisan watching a concert.”

That said, Eduardo was literally one of a million or so when he participated in the Stanley Cup parade and became a fan in the stands at Cardinals and Blues games. He still ranks sports as the thing that stands out most to him about his adopted hometown.

“St. Louis is just infectious about its sports teams,” Eduardo says. “The environment and the whole vibe are really contagious in a way that’s different from Denver, especially with the teams other than the Broncos. I wasn’t a baseball fan until I got here, didn’t follow the Rockies, but it’s so different here.

“The contagion of how much fans care — the energy and positivity around the team — it just makes it very accepting and easy to go along with and get caught up in. When you throw on a Cardinals hat, you’re part of this movement. It’s definitely similar with the Blues. It’s very uplifting.”

Being accepted as part of the St. Louis community is especially important to Eduardo. But it’s not so much because he works at an iconic local company, has become a hometown sports fanatic and enjoys hanging out with his wife at the Loop.

No, it’s because Eduardo is a DACA kid.

That’s why I’ve been referring to him as “Eduardo,” which is actually his middle name, rather than making him more specifically identifiable. I told him I didn’t mind his request to protect his identity, since it seemed obvious that the cloud of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency must hover over his life like a drone.

Tellingly, Eduardo says that’s not the reason he would prefer anonymity in this context. While I doubt that he and his wife, a U.S. citizen, are likely to invite ICE agents over for a dinner party anytime soon, he is represented by arguably the top immigration attorney in St. Louis — Jim Hacking — and leaves the legal stuff to him.

The reason Eduardo prefers his privacy is that he just wants to be one of us. DACA kids are essentially Americans without the right piece of paper. In the large majority of instances, they came as young kids — Eduardo was six when his Mexican family overstayed its visitor visa in 1998 in search of a better life — and the United States is really the only country most have ever considered home.

Eduardo is proud of his family and his heritage, but all he wants today is to melt into our melting pot. That’s not so easily accomplished if people might lump him with those “rapists and murderers” from Mexico about whom Donald Trump waxed so eloquently in 2016 as an organizing principle of his successful campaign to Make America Xenophobic Again.

Eduardo has no reason to apologize for being a DACA kid, and most Americans agree with that in survey after survey. Even Trump pretends to favor kindness to young people like Eduardo after fanning the flames of fear and distrust all these years.

But Eduardo keeps his head down about his DACA status — outside of a small number of friends and business associates — because he’s a realistic person.

“I don’t broadcast it, just out of fear of how people will perceive me, not only in my personal life but at work as well,” Eduardo says. “A lot of people just have this view of us as foreign, when we’re really just normal people among you.”

Eduardo acknowledges it might be different were he a Dreamer from Europe.

“I would never compare us to Black Lives Matter, because that’s on a whole different level, but there is systematic racism that crops up when you’ve come here from countries like Mexico or El Salvador,” Eduardo says. “It’s cool to be an immigrant from England, if you’re a white person, but it’s looked down upon when you’re a brown person.

“I just want to be an American and a St. Louisan.” Hacking was elated with last Thursday’s surprise U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bought more time for his clients such as Eduardo to remain in the country through DACA status. In a 5-4 ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the high court’s four liberal justices in finding that the Trump administration had been “arbitrary and capricious” in its heinous effort to eliminate DACA without a non-deportation solution in hand.

“Eduardo’s case is a perfect example of President Obama’s goal in adopting the DACA program,” Hacking says. “He has made the most of the opportunity that was given to him and is a shining example of what can happen when immigrants are allowed out of the shadows. We’re hopeful that this serves as a bridge to him as he moves toward citizenship.”

In Eduardo’s case, unfortunately, an immigration judge in Los Angeles ordered him and his family deported eighteen years ago. So, there’s work to be done.

“We were able to get that order set aside last year by showing that Eduardo was married to a U.S. citizen and that he was eligible to adjust status,” Hacking says. “We’re hopeful that he can adjust in the next several months, and that would put him on a path toward U.S. citizenship.”

At that point, Eduardo would become a green-card holder and would be eligible for citizenship three years later. Without DACA he could have already been deported, Hacking says. I had always thought marrying a U.S. citizen made you a U.S. citizen. Not so, it turns out in the case of DACA kids like Eduardo — because of the “crime” he committed at age six.

Hacking says it’s up to Congress to fix this mess: “We remain hopeful that immigration reform is in our future.”

Meanwhile, Eduardo is hoping like the rest of us that the Cardinals and Blues will start playing again. He also looks forward to rooting for his Broncos, but not two of Denver’s other sports franchises, the Avalanche and the Nuggets.

The problem with them, Eduardo says, is that they’re owned by a fellow named Stan Kroenke and — in his words — “Kroenke sucks.” I really wish I could share with you this St. Louisan’s real, full name. After all, he’s one of us.

Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).

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