I do not know whether, like countless American teenagers, Yves Gomes will be watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I this weekend.
If he does, he will probably not recognize himself in the film. Gomes has no lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. But like Harry, 17-year-old Gomes is bespectacled, owlishly serious, an unlikely warrior thrust into a battle much bigger than him. It’s a fight that has already claimed his parents.
Gomes’ parents were not killed by Voldemort. They were deported because they lived in America without papers. Gomes, a minor, remained behind, raised by a great aunt and uncle. Now he is but one of hundreds of DREAMers — young students who grew up in America without papers and are fighting for the right to call it their country.
It is their time.
When the great wizards and senators, the ministers of magic and congressmen fail, it is these students who realize that this fight will have to be their fight. They can’t wait for the adults to do battle for them because the adults have failed them over and over again. They have to come out of the shelter of Hogwarts and go out into the real world, where life isn’t a game of Quidditch anymore. All year, we have been watching these Harry Potters come out of the shadows, risking their entire futures for the sake of a DREAM.
This week, Matias Ramos, a founding member of United We DREAM, staged a sit-in at John McCain’s Washington, D.C., office.
Gaby Pacheco walked 1,500 miles from Miami to D.C. this year. She has been fighting deportation since 2006.
Yves Gomes, who doesn’t like talking to crowds, stood in front of his church congregation and told the worshipers his story.
We may not recognize Harry Potter or his friends in any of these young men and women. But they are all Harry Potters of the ICE Age.
When the new Harry Potter film opens, a voice intones “These are dark times–there is no denying.”
J.K. Rowling’s vision of darkness feels oddly familiar. It is as if in contemporary times, our imagination of evil is still imprisoned in the memories of World War II. We relive the Nazis over and over again. They are the eternal bogeymen. As Voldemort’s minions take over the Ministry of Magic, it feels like we are in Poland once more. London is pallid, and evil looms gray on the horizon like a winter sky.
It lulls us, this familiar vision of evil. It’s a storybook evil, easily recognizable, even safe. We may not realize that even in sunnier America, under the bright blue desert skies of Arizona, the same darkness lurks.
In Potter’s England, there is a trace on minors, tracking their movements. In America’s surveillance society, we call them ankle bracelets.
In Potter’s world, we don’t know who is a wizard and who is a Muggle. They look the same. Sometimes they even marry each other. In immigration parlance, we call them mixed-status families.
Yves Gomes says his classmates were surprised to discover he was undocumented. He sounded just like them. He played basketball and went to cookouts. They just never understood why, though he studied French for years, he couldn’t go on a class trip to France. He carried his lightning scar hidden deep inside.
When it comes to immigration, there is no shortage of Dark Lords. Voldemort’s American soul is split into thousands of horcruxes, hidden in every corner of the country. We give them banal names like SB1070 in Arizona. In other states, they lie hidden in plain sight, exerting their dangerous power in city council meetings in small towns with pretty names like Hazelton. Nativism and fascism in America can look quite affable, even democratic. No dark arts are needed, no hissing serpents named Nagini, just ballot measures, fanned into wildfires by bombastic radio hosts.
In the Deathly Hallows, the Death Eaters have infiltrated Hogwarts and taken charge of the Ministry of Magic. In post-midterm America, their power has grown as well. In Rowling’s world, they have names like Alecto and Amycus Carrow. In America, their names are less exotic–for example, Steve King (R-Iowa) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas), congressmen who want to strip away the protection of the 14th Amendment from the children of undocumented immigrants. And then there are the shape shifters like John McCain — once a maverick, now more of an Alastar Moody, of ambiguous, uncertain loyalty.
But will Sen. Harry Reid, bruised and battered from his last electoral campaign, really find it in himself to be Dumbledore? Because these DREAM-ers, these Yves Gomes and Harry Potters, brave as they are, ultimately have no special powers.
They will need all the magic they can muster. Or failing that, a cloture vote in the Senate.
“Harry is the best hope we have. Trust him,” one character says in the Deathly Hallows.
But the question is, can Yves Gomes trust Harry Reid?