NBC NEWS – ‘¡Americano!’ puts a focus on ‘Dreamers’ and their quest for the American dream.

Tony Valdovinos was in sixth grade in Arizona when the twin towers were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. From 9/11 on, his dream was to join the Marine Corps and defend his country. Shortly before graduating from high school, he met with a recruiter, only to receive the shock of his life: Valdovinos could not join the Marines — because he was living in the country illegally.

Unbeknownst to him, Valdovinos had been brought to the U.S from Mexico at age 2, but the family did not have legal status. “Learning the truth, I felt hurt, angry, betrayed and humiliated,” Valdovinos recalled. “I believed that Marines were warriors, and in an instant, I learned that was unattainable for me.”

Now a new musical based on Valdovinos’ life — ¡Americano! — will play off-Broadway in New York City. Currently, in previews, the show opens May 1. It aims to show how Valdovinos channeled his anger into activism, and to restart conversations about the “Dreamers.”

The name “Dreamers” comes from the DREAM Act — long-stalled legislation that would allow these young people to legalize their immigration status and remain in the country. According to the National Immigration Forum, there are an estimated 3.6 million Dreamers in the U.S. A smaller subset, including Valdovinos, have obtained temporary deportation relief through the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. But absent congressional action, the Dreamers’ long-term status remains uncertain.

For Valdovinos, 31, seeing his life depicted onstage has at times been wrenching. “It’s tough to watch some of my most devastating moments again and again, like when I confronted my parents about my being undocumented. The real memories get stirred up.” His parents had not told him about his status because they said they were trying to protect him… read more >

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