Obama immigration decision brings to mind ‘Twilight’-ed Denison teen

The carne sizzled outside. The Spanish festively bounced around the kitchen. Families poured in for the Sunday birthday celebration in a warm middle-class Denison neighborhood, Latinos and white folk on the same block. The host family stood on the ready. Another glass of horchata? A piece of tres leches cake?

But there was one noticeable absence. The family’s 13-year-old daughter would not leave her room. Wouldn’t make an appearance. Not even for a moment. She squirreled away for the day.

“What’s she doing in there? She sick?” I asked her bilingual sister. Most kids you encounter in Denison are bilingual. They speak Spanish as well (or almost as well) as their parents and manage English like native Iowans.

“She’s in there watching ‘Twilight’ for like the 50th time,” the sister said, her eyes rolling on something of a spin cycle. “She’s crazy in love with Robert Pattinson.”

I laughed. So much for the issue of assimilation. This girl’s issue isn’t that she won’t adopt American culture. Quite the opposite. Like millions of other American teens, she’s under the Edward Cullen spell.

Is her family here illegally? I don’t know. Perhaps. I don’t make it a business to ask people for papers in Denison. There’s enough of that in Arizona.

But like dozens of other young Latinos I’ve met in the last 20 years, the 13-year-old crushing on Pattinson is indisputably American. And collectively, these young people, who deserve to be fully embraced, are a staggeringly valuable untapped resource in rural Iowa — possessing the ability to code switch from Spanish to English and back. In a state reliant on exports, this should be viewed as a bigger deal, a blessing.

When President Obama announced a policy to stop the deportation of young, undocumented immigrants, I could see the faces.

Yes, there are politics. I understand this. But it is the right move by the president on a human level. It is the right thing for our small towns.

In rural Iowa, we need people. Including Latinas obsessed with “Twilight” heartthrobs.

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