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Who will save Zachary Dick ?
By Jack Cashill
Life is so much easier for film stars like Tommy Lee Jones than it is for real people like Brady and Myrna Dick of Raymore and their infant son, Zachary.
Like so many of his ideological pals, Jones deals with a tough moral issue by preening his way through it. His most recent film, the preposterous Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, gives Jones the soapbox on illegal immigration. Jones not only starred in the film, but he also directed it and co-produced. He has no excuse.
In the film, when the amiable Melquiades Estrada shows up at the ranch of Pete Perkins, Jones’ character, Perkins asks—in Spanish of course—what Estrada wants. When Estrada answers that he only wants to be a cowboy, the job is his, no questions asked. Unfortunately, and ironically, this cinematic self-indulgence works against truly heartbreaking, real-life cases like that of the Dicks.
Many Kansas City business people are no more discriminating than cowboy Pete. The need for workers who actually work motivates some entrepreneurs. They will tell you that much of America’s homegrown underclass has been corrupted beyond the ability to set an alarm, let alone shingle a roof, and unfortunately, they will be telling you the truth.
Less understandable is the motivation of those Chamber types who turn a blind eye to illegal immigration. Their fear is that, if our laws are enforced, Mexico will take its NAFTA trade somewhere else. So we don’t enforce our laws.
As testament to our civic willingness to toady, the city of Kansas City, Missouri has assigned two police officers to the Westside Community Action Network (CAN) Center, a gathering place for day laborers. “We’ve had to tweak law enforcement procedures a little bit to make it work,” says Lynda Callon of the CAN Center.
By “tweak” Callon means two things. One is that police help insure that contractors pay laborers for contracted work. The second is that the police ignore the fact that half of these workers are here illegally and their work has been contracted in full violation of the law. As Callon boasts, the police have better things to do than enforce immigration law.
Among those better things is capturing violent fugitives. In Los Angeles, where police are also banned from checking immigration status, 95% of the city’s 1200 plus outstanding murder warrants are signed out for “undocumented immigrants” as are two-thirds of the 17,000 outstanding felony warrants. And anyone who thinks the problem is limited to California should take a look online at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted list. It will open your eyes.
Apparently, all that Tommy Lee Jones salvaged from Texas is his twang. He seems to have shucked his Lone Star values somewhere between Harvard—where he spent four years, rooming with Al Gore no less—and Hollywood.
In Three Burials, Jones portrays those who actually enforce the law on a continuum from weasel to Wehrmacht. Nastiest among them is the film’s antagonist, an almost comically abusive border guard named Mike Norton, who looks as Anglo as his name sounds. And lest the point be missed, the first shot we see of this Tim McVeigh look-alike is a tilt down from an American flag.
Although Norton coolly abuses everyone in his universe, (including himself, but that’s another story) it is quite by accident that he shoots and kills the angelic Mexican, Estrada. No matter. Cowboy Pete spends the last 2/3 of the movie torturing and humiliating Norton for a higher moral cause that he alone uniquely intuits.
Immigration activists in Kansas City see the world much the same way Jones does. As many of them will happily tell you U.S immigration policy violates their exquisite sense of morality. No reform of American law will placate the hard core among them.
Myrna and Brady Dick and son Zachary inhabit another world altogether, the world of real laws and real people, a world in which the enforcers are no more evil than your local IRS agent or DMV clerk or mailman, but no more creative either. The law does not allow for creativity.
When she was nine years old, Myrna Ochoa-Carrillo moved with her family to Dallas. This they did illegally. When an amnesty was declared in 1986, some two years later, Myrna’s many siblings seized the opportunity to be-come citizens. For some reason, Myrna, still a pre-teen, did not.
From there, Myrna descended into bureaucratic purgatory. She applied three times for permanent residence, and each time was told her file was still missing but not to worry that everything was in order. In 1998, Myrna went to Mexico to attend her grandmother’s funeral and, according to authorities, falsely claimed U.S. citizenship to get back in—a deportable offense. In the process, she was fingerprinted.
In November 2001, she married Brady Dick, now a voice engineer with Sprint. After her marriage she applied for permanent residency and again provided her fingerprints. It was not until April 2004, when she innocently went in to renew her work permit in Kansas City that immigration officials arrested her and held her for deportation.
As it happens, Myrna had discovered that she was pregnant just days before she was detained. In a weird reversal of fortune, Judge Scott Wright, “a staunch supporter of abortion rights” even by the standards of The Star, declared the unborn Zachary a citizen and blocked his forced exile to Mexico. This move won the Dicks no new friends in the liberal community. Just the thought of the chant—“If you can’t deport, you can’t abort”—had to have been unnerving.
Once Zachary was born, however, Myrna was no longer protected. To the degree that the media have come to her rescue it has been in Jonesian fashion, only slightly tempered: innocent victim versus heartless bureaucrats. “Myrna Dick didn’t look like a criminal Friday morning,” The Star tells us. “She’s a wife, mom, community volunteer and Sunday School teacher.”
This much is true. The problem is that The Star has squandered its moral capital celebrating enterprises like the Westside CAN Center that encourage and nurture illegal behavior. In the process, it has alienated many citizens who would naturally be sympathetic to the Dicks.
Those citizens meanwhile have grown increasingly frustrated with the indifference of big government, big business and big media to a problem with real grass roots consequences. If they remain silent on the larger issue, it is because they fear the almost inevitable taunts of “anti-immigrant” or even “racist” should they take the wrong tack on the issue.
Kris Kobach knows all about this. When the UMKC Law School professor ran for Congress against Dennis Moore in 2004 on the tough side of immigration reform, the Moore camp sent out thousands of mailers to Kansas women showing Kobach’s alleged ties to certain “white supre-macists,” who shared his views.
As it happens, the Dicks found their most influential supporter in Kobach. They believe that were it not for his ability to secure a stay, Myrna would have been long since deported. This only seems ironic to those fool enough to have believed Moore.
That stay has expired. Myrna could be deported at any moment. The Dicks’ best hope is emergency legislation, and they are pinning their futures on Kansas Senator Sam Brownback. For some time, however, the young staffers that surround all Congress people shielded Brownback from the petitions that the Dicks and others had been sending. They badly misjudged the soul of his constituents.
“Who knows,” says Myrna, “maybe God will touch someone’s heart and they will let me stay.” At this stage, it will take something close to divine intervention. Otherwise, young Zachary Dick faces the choice of being either Mexican or motherless.
And here is the final irony. In Three Burials, cowboy Melquiades Estrada insists on being buried in his homeland and not “among the #@$%& billboards” of West Texas. And why not? The Mexico we see in the movie is a natural wonderland filled with saintly people. The Texas we see is a hellhole filled with grotesques. The question that Jones fails to answer is why everyone wants to come to the hellhole.
If Jones doesn’t know or care, the Dicks do. That’s why they want Zachary to be an American.
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