This is Manuel Bartsch. He discovered he was a DACA kid when he was a high school senior. Then his story got worse, much worse. Read on…and discover how something like this could happen.
Manuel’s story started with two Americans, his grandfather and step-grandfather. His grandmother was German. She had a baby girl, who had Manuel, but he wound up living with his grandmother. She had another baby, Manuel’s uncle. Life was good…until his grandmother was killed by a drunk driver in 1993.
Arriving in the US
In 1997 Manuel’s step-grandfather brought both boys to the US, to Gilboa, Ohio. Manuel was about 7 years old. He came legally, with a 90-day visitor pass…it never got renewed. Uh-oh! Then his grandfather forgot to legally adopt him. Double Uh-oh!
Manuel grew up in Ohio, as an American kid, doing American things like playing football until December of 2005. That’s when he discovered the truth. Manuel tried to get his driver’s license and register for the ACT, a college entrance test. Manuel learned he didn’t have a social security number, that he wasn’t a citizen, or even a legal resident of the United States. Pretty bad…but it gets worse, much worse.
Manuel didn’t know what to do when he got a letter from immigration in Ohio. He asked for advice from his girlfriend’s father, who’s in law enforcement. They went into the immigration office together.
Officials confirmed Manuel’s entry date with his step-grandfather. They came into Newark, New Jersey on August 21, 1997. Manuel had just turned 10. After that meeting, life got worse, much worse.
Arrested before Christmas
Those officials couldn’t find any paperwork, for either an adoption or a visitation. Without them, they had to arrest and charge Manuel as an illegal alien. It’s the law…so in December of 2005, Manuel found himself stuck in jail for 17 days. He was18 years old. I can’t imagine how scared he felt to find himself in jail as illegal alien. He had no idea what happened, no idea what to do. But that’s when things got better, a little better.
Manuel Finds Help
Manuel’s story made news around the US, and in Germany too. It got him a lawyer, David Leopold, who accepted the case pro-bono. He didn’t ask for a dime.
Back home in the Pandora-Gilboa school district, friends, teachers, administrators, and school board members needed to help. They traveled to Cleveland to speak for Manuel. They told the court they were upset, that they wanted Manuel back in school, back in Gilboa.
Their words worked! The case was dropped. Manuel was released, but it wasn’t over. He didn’t have citizenship, and he could be deported at any time. He might not even be allowed to finish high school. WOW!
The Fight Goes On
Mark Painter, father of Manuel’s high school girl friend, said, "Right now, he still has a chance. It's not a definite no…The fight goes on." Then life got better, a little better, thanks to help from lawyer David Leopold, Congressman Paul Gilmore, and Senator Michael DeWine.
In April of 2006, Senator Mike DeWine joined Manuel’s fight. He wanted to see Manuel’s status changed. He believed Manuel should be legally allowed to stay in the country. Mike took the fight to the US Senate. He asked for a report on the case. It made a difference! The report said Manuel couldn’t be deported, even if a judge ordered it.
High School Graduation
Manuel went on to graduate from Pandora-Gilboa High School, but he didn’t know about college, even though he’d been accepted at Ohio Northern University. He sat in limbo, waiting to hear back from his legal battles. His lawyer, David said Manuel grew up a lot his senior year.
The Fight’s Not Over
Manuel found another champion in Ohio Congressman Paul Gilmore. In January 2007, he introduced a bill into the US House of Representatives for the relief of Manuel Bartch, to give him permanent resident status. It never passed so the bill died. Paul died later that year, in September of 2007.
College, at Last
Manuel made it to college. Yeah! He went to Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio. Manuel was an achiever! His professor, David Hogan, said “He was in the top 2% of his students,” and that he couldn’t believe Manuel’s problem had no solution. Me too!
Manuel didn’t just have great grades in college…He was a leader too. His fraternity voted him president for 2 terms. It was a perfect fit for a political science major who dreamed of a future in government and politics.
In college Manuel was considered an undocumented immigrant, but someone believed in him, enough to give him tuition money. To this day Manuel has no idea who helped him. He has a guess, but he’ll never know for sure. On May 4th, 2012 Manuel graduated from Heidelberg with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He couldn’t understand how America could give him a great education, yet send him back to Germany, a country he hadn’t visited for 15 years.
He also didn’t know what to do with his degree. A lot of college kids have trouble getting jobs. Not Manuel! He couldn’t get a job. He couldn’t go to graduate school. He couldn’t get clearance to work in state or local government, and he still couldn’t get a driver’s license. All because of a piece of paper. Imagine! A piece of paper! Manuel was stuck, in limbo, because of a piece of paper.
This is Manuel’s step-grandfather and Manuel’s diploma from Heidelberg. Can you imagine how proud his grandfather was of Manuel? I also imagine he was frustrated…frustrated to see Manuel stuck through no fault of his own. That’s when life got better, a little better.
The Dream Act
The next 3 pictures show Manuel speaking in support of the Dream Act. This first one is in Washington D.C. The Capital Building stands in the background.
Did you know the Dream Act was originally introduced Aug.1, 2001 by Democrat, Dick Durbin, and Republican, Orrin Hatch? It was bi-partisan, with senators from both of our major political parties. It’s been discussed in different forms ever since, but never been made into a law. Not ever.
In 2012 it was one small clause of a huge Immigration bill. It was supposed to give citizenship to kids like Manuel who’d arrived in the US before they were 16.
Back then Manuel said, “I’d like to get out there, and be in the fight for things, especially on immigration. I would love to advocate for immigration and reform and passage of the Dream Act – just the passion I have for that kind of thing.”
It made sense for the kid who was interested in government and politics to get involved.
And he did…he testified in front of Congress. He tried to convince them to dream, but Congress said no to the immigration bill, no to the dream act.
It must have seemed like the worst of times to Manuel, but then that same year, things got better, a lot better.
Time for a Cover
In 2012 Time decided to produce an article and cover to support the Dream Act. This is that cover shoot. It featured 35 students from different backgrounds. Each student represented a country whose kids have been caught in the US without legal citizenship. Some people think it’s just a South and Central American problem, but it’s not. Manuel’s from Germany.
Someone brought these kids here illegally. It wasn’t their choice, it wasn’t their fault, and something needed to be done. Time decided to help, with this cover, and its matching article.
After it was shot, Time’s editors worked on computers to make the picture just right. They added words, in the right colors, in the right sizes. Lots of work went into the cover below. The magazine came out June 25, 2012.
Two weeks earlier, on June 15, 2012 President Obama signed the Dream Act as an executive order. It didn’t grant kids like Manuel citizenship, but it halted deportation, temporarily. It allowed them to work and go to school.
Manuel said, “I’m excited, and I thank Obama for stepping forward. I hope it’s more than election year politics. I hope there’s more behind it than that because it’s so important for so many of us.”
So where does Manuel stand now, in 2018? Is life better, or worse?
The pictures in this section come from the last 6 years. Life looks pretty good. Manuel married his high school sweetheart. They have good jobs, a house, and an 18-month-old cutie!
Life is good, but something’s missing…US citizenship. When I started this post in January, I remember Manuel’s father-in-law saying the law is black and white, no wiggle room. Manuel’s married to a citizen, and he’s the father of one. I thought if you married a citizen, you got citizenship automatically. Evidently not if you came illegally.
Thanks to DACA, Manuel can drive a car, and he has a job, but not in government. That’s where his passion, talents, and degree are. Manuel can’t cross the border into Canada or Mexico for vacation. He can’t visit family back in Germany. Why not? He’s afraid he wouldn’t get back in again.
Some people think that he should leave the country and wait his turn to come back. That’s hard to do with a wife and a child. It could take as long as 8 years to return, the right way. His son would be 9 by then. That’s a huge price to ask of anyone, especially a little boy.
So what’s the answer? Compromise, somehow. Everyone knows this situation is wrong, and it should be fixed. The question is how. Manuel’s father-in-law thinks our government should come up with a plan that asks these kids to do things like finish high school, finish college/higher training. Manuel has done both.
Others think the DACA kids should pay a fine in money and/or time. I’d support a plan like that, if it was reasonable. I’d write my Congress people, and I think others would too.
I wish our leaders in Washington DC would come up with that reasonable plan for these DACA kids. It’s been discussed since 2000 by politicians on both sides of the aisle. Why can’t they make it happen?
1. My interview with Manuel’s father-in-law, Mark Painter
2. The Cleveland Plain Dealer
3. The Toledo Blade
4. ABC News
5. The Lima News
6. Congressional Record
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!