President Trump is trying to put a number on Miguel Dalmau’s head, but the Dreamer has a smile on his lips.
Although his life in America is sunny, Miguel’s status is cloudy because his parents brought him and his sister here on a visa and they didn’t leave when it expired. So-called visa overstays are how the majority of undocumented people now get here.
Not returning to the Dominican Republic was deliberate, a plan hatched by his father, also named Miguel, and his mother, Leticia. They arrived in 1996 with Miguel, then 8, and his sister Paloma, 13, with no intention of returning to Santo Domingo, where they lived in a cinder-block shed with an outhouse in the yard even though the father was a dentist.
They came for a better life, Miguel tells me, which is understandable. He doesn’t argue when I point out they could have applied to come here legally, waited their turn, and not found themselves in a mess. That was his parents’ doing, and that’s why almost 90 percent of Americans think the children shouldn’t be punished for the bad actions of the parents.
The family settled in New York City, Miguel attended high school and did well, he says, wishing to go to college to become a doctor.
But “they don’t give scholarships or loans to the undocumented. I tried to work my way through college, but I realized you can’t do that on a Toys R Us salary,” he says with a smile.
“I can be a drug dealer or work as a comedian,” he thought. Naturally funny, he chose comedy.
Like generations of comedians before him — Jewish, black, female, Asian — he mines his own life story and often uses the persona of the American Immigrant. He has a bunch of podcasts you can reach through Google.
Emilio Savone, who runs a comedy club in New York and the Philly Comedy Club in Society Hill, says, “Miguel appeals to every audience — urban, college, older. Hispanic comics sometimes can be pigeonholed, but that doesn’t happen to Miguel.”
Miguel writes and edits his routines every day, and drives Lyft for extra cash.
As we talk in his two-bedroom garden apartment in Blackwood, Camden County, his 2-year-old curly-haired son, Luka, busies himself with a Kindle while Luka’s mother, Amy Corsaro, supervises. Born in the U.S.A., Luka is an American citizen.
Miguel says he feels 100 percent American, and can prove it. “I’ve developed too much American arrogance to be afraid about deportation,” he jokes.
That’s not 100 percent true.
Last weekend, the government shut down in part due to wrangling over DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that protects Dreamers and allows them to attend school and work. The government reopened Monday and DACA will be debated next month, perhaps to be resolved in the Dreamers’ favor.
Until that happens, Miguel remains in jeopardy but puts a smile on his face when he does his stand-up comedy, as he will do Thursday night at the Dock Street Brewery, 701 S. 50th St., West Philadelphia.
Because Miguel feels that President Trump is out to get him, in his act he rips the president a new one, all the while with a smile on his face.
Just like an American.