Day 3 at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. After working with a great Spanish interpreter during our three days in Texas, I officially speak and understand a little Spanglish (a blend of English and Spanish). There are a few words and phrases that I no longer need an interpreter to understand.
Before I came to Dilley, I was very nervous about my inability to connect to clients because I can’t speak Spanish. I thought it would be impossible to connect because we both had to speak directly to the interpreter to communicate to one another. At first, I struggled with the idea of looking at the clients while they were talking because I did not know what they were saying. I soon learned that no matter what was being said eye contact and facial expressions made a difference. Surprisingly, speaking through an interpreter has not affected our communication.
Yesterday, I had a meeting with a woman. For about two hours she cried, smiled and talked with me through an interpreter. During the meeting I was the one that was being educated. I learned about a country and its poor living conditions. And I learned about a strong, resilient and educated woman who had to leave her country due to her undeniable fear of persecution. By the end of the meeting yesterday, with tears in her eyes she asked me, not the interpreter, to accompany her to her creditable fear interview today. I was honored that she wanted me to accompany her despite the fact the I could not bring the interpreter with me. In our role at South Texas Family Residential Center, we do not accompany every client to their interview but I agreed to accompany this client because she wanted me there.
Today, when I sat next to the woman in the waiting area, I could see the relief in her eyes. I could not say more than, “Hi, how are you doing?,” as we sat there waiting but it seemed like that was the only conversation that she needed to smile in such a life determining moment. This was the first time that I was able to act like/ be a real lawyer. Although it was the second time that I have practiced under a student practice order, it was my first time speaking “on the record” to defend a client. The asylum officer referred to me as the client’s lawyer, which made the client again smile. When the woman finally talked to the asylum officer, I could see that she was confident. And although she was nervous at first, she was able to clearly and concisely describe the persecution that she faced.
I am grateful for this opportunity to come to Dilley to help these women and I hope that they are all successful in their claims.
Due to the unforeseen weather delays, we are in hoping to raise a little extra money to cover the cost of the many flights (4!) that were cancelled and rebooked. If you are interested in donating to the trip, please visit our Crowdfunding page.