Independent Lens


Jose and Mr. Ramos: The Dreamer

A follow-up to East of Salinas, The Dreamer revisits Jose Ansaldo, a bright, optimistic kid about to graduate from middle school in Salinas, California, the nation's "salad bowl." His single mom is a farmworker who struggles to support Jose and his siblings. Jose dreams of going to college to become an engineer, but he and other promising students like him now face the threat of deportation.

AIRED: September 07, 2017 | 0:08:19

(classical guitar music)

- My name is Jose Ansaldo.

I'm in eighth grade, and I go to Washington Middle School.

I'm good at math, and I'm good at building things.

When I grow up, I want to be an engineer.

Are you saying nine squared plus six squared

equals x squared?

- Yeah. Have you tried squaring them

and then adding them both?

- I like learning. It can be fun sometimes.

- Jose, what was your aha moment

as you tried to solve this problem?

- I discovered that you could find it

by just square rooting.

I was born in Mexico.

My brother and my sister were born here.

It isn't like I'm supposed to feel

like I'm some other species, you know?

It's just I don't have papers, that's all.

It's not a big deal.

10 times 10 ...

It's not affecting me right now, but I know it will.

And I will have to be ready for it.

(classical guitar music)

- My name is Oscar Ramos.

I'm a second grade teacher.

A few years ago, Jose Ansaldo was one of my students

when I was teaching third grade.

[Oscar] Can you take away eight?

- [Students] No!

- [Oscar] No, you need to regroup.

He was a happy little guy, eager to learn.

Jose, you get the next one.

Jose reminded me a lot of myself as a child,

growing up migrant.

- Mr. Ramos and I had a lot of things in common.

I remember we both said we like math,

and we both like soup.

It's delicious.

- So, if you agreed with Galilea, you got it right.

- [Students] I agree!

- Every year I tell them that I was born in Mexico,

and that I worked in the fields at a very early age.

We used to get up really early, like at four in the morning.

And then, we used to go work for 10 hours, 12 hours.

And it's a great message for them,

because they start to picture themselves

being someone with a professional career.

Teacher, lawyer, doctor, engineer.

I like seeing that in their faces

when they realize, "I can be someone."

A lot of our families in Salinas are migrant families.

They follow the crops wherever the crops are being harvested.

It is known as the salad bowl of the world.

The majority of my students' parents work in those fields.

(acoustic guitar music)

- My mom rented out the bedrooms,

so now we have to sleep in the living room together.

I do think my mom has a hard life,

but I know that she can get through it.

- I am still doing my homework on my own,

because school-wise I can't really get that much support.

My mom, she still can't understand English.

And my brother, well, he just has no clue what I'm doing.

I'd rather just work on it on my own

and see if that can help me learn more.

- A lot of our students don't have a very strong mentor

in terms of education, educational choices.

I think Jose sees me as a mentor,

and I'm glad to play that role.

- To me, Mr. Ramos is my friend.

He still encourages me to do well in school,

and anything else pretty much.

Oh, hey, Mr. Ramos!

- You ready?

- Yeah.

- All right, let's go.

This afternoon, I'm taking Jose to an immigration forum.

He's been asking me some questions

that I don't know the answer to.

And they invite everyone to attend.

And they can ask any question they want.

- So that I can learn about my rights

as an undocumented kid.

(foreign language)

- I have seen a big change since the election.

There's a lot of fear, there's a lot of confusion.

There's a lot of misinformation.

Virtually every district has declared themselves

a safe district, safe schools.

A lot of the teachers are a little confused

about what that means.

What do we do if ICE actually shows up

in front of the school?

We don't know.

Would any of you like to share your thoughts

on the importance of Salinas declaring itself

a sanctuary city?

I heard stories from parents,

our students are scared.

The day after the election,

they didn't want to come to school,

because they were afraid that they were gonna be deported.

I'll give you an example.

I asked the students to go over the weekend to purchase

notebooks, because we're running out of supplies.

And one of the students said, "We can't go to Walmart,

because my mom said that's where ICE is."

So that's, the fear is real.

They shouldn't be feeling like this.

They shouldn't be living in fear.

They certainly shouldn't be thinking about being deported.

Because they're children, they haven't done anything wrong.

They're kids.

- My 18 year old brother is a natural U.S. citizen.

Is there a way that my brother can make me a U.S. citizen?

(foreign language)

I did not really understand.

- Well, let's go sit over there.

We'll go over there.

It was a good question.

And there is good news, and there was bad news.

The good news is that, yes, you can become a citizen

through your brother.

But the bad news is that it would take 20 years.

How old are you now?

- 13.

- 13?

You'd be 33.

(classical guitar music)

(Teacher instructing)

- I feel like I do have the right to stay here,

because I've been here for so long,

and I've done my best to learn here,

so that one day, eventually, I can help people here.

(students yelling)

- When I grow up, I think I want to be an engineer.

An engineer has to really know math,

and I like math.

- I want to go to college, because my goal in general

is just to have an education.

And no matter what happens, I'll still strive

for more opportunities.

- Jose is more determined than ever to succeed.

And I'm more determined than ever to support him.

Do I have hope for Jose?

Absolutely, 100%, yes.

- There's always a chance to do what you want to do,

as long as you don't give up.

(classical guitar music)


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