I show my client a photo of the skyline of Sevilla, where I just was with my wife, visiting our daughter, who is studying there. My client shows me a note from her young daughter. I try to understand the Spanish – lines of, “I love you,” decorated with several drawn hearts. My client smiles, but I know she is nervous. We are sitting in a small, dimly lit waiting room in a Federal Courthouse soon to meet with an agent from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
She is from Central America, but is here with a pending Asylum claim (for which I am her attorney). While her claim makes its way through the system, ICE requires periodic check-ins, asking her to appear at 8:00 AM (and since she lives far away and has no car, I picked her up in the early dawn hour). I try to relax her with words of Spanish, but sometimes I realize I am instead speaking French (having studied both, the languages are a tangle in my mind). She smiles, with no idea why I have chosen French, and holds her daughter’s note the way one would hold rosemary beads.
When the agent appears, my heart skips beats as he addresses her directly in Spanish. I have no idea what he says, so I study her face for emotion, hoping to find there a translation of his words. She smiles and nods. He leaves.
“That’s it,” she tells me, in English. “We can go.”
I pitter-pat my chest with my hand to share my nervous relief. “De nada,” I offer. We walk down the hallways, ride down the elevator, and leave through the front doors into the morning.