I have practiced immigration law for almost two years now. I spent my first year practicing law back on the Texas/Mexican border—in Harlingen, TX representing unaccompanied minors in immigration court. The majority of these young clients could not WAIT. They could not wait to flee the violence in their home countries. Waiting would have led to their death. So they fled. Alone, unaccompanied, and afraid. Their trips consisted of days on foot or without food and water, rationing a sandwich over five days. Or jammed into the cargo-carrying trailer of an 18-wheeler, hiding to avoid being detained and returned home, only to start the week long journey over again.
They fled and now…now they wait. They wait for what an immigration judge will say about their case. They wait to see if the Office of Refugee and Resettlement will allow them to reunite with their families. They wait to feel at home again, in this foreign land, surrounded by this foreign language.
Our broken immigration system forces people to wait….and wait….and wait…
"I know this is difficult, but you have to wait," I tell my client. A glass window separating us during a legal visit. You see, all he wants to do is be back with his family for Christmas, and that is not going to happen. In fact, he may not see his two children ever again. He was arrested just after Thanksgiving for driving without a license. Now he finds himself sitting in jail waiting to hear from the judge to see whether he can be released on bond. His family waits for their father, their protector, and their father the breadwinner, to return. The first of the month is coming up and they cannot afford to pay rent without his income. He sobs. I wait as he dries his tears, before I continue my dive into his personal life, fishing for details that may help build his narrative for the immigration judge.
They continue to wait….
“All you can do is be patient and wait,” I tell my friend, a DACA recipient whose work permit will expire next week and will be at risk for deportation. She just graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is hoping to attend law school in the fall. Despite her aspirations, her future is uncertain. She has to wait.
They will continue to wait….
As an immigrants rights advocate and an immigration attorney, I now wait alongside my clients. Everyday we fight and WE WAIT: we wait for comprehensive immigration reform, we wait for families to be reunited, we wait for opportunity, but most importantly, we wait for our neighbors to learn the plight of immigrants and refugees so that they can join us in this fight.
Aissa Olivarez is a staff attorney at the Community Immigration Law Center (CILC) in Madison, Wisconsin. CILC is a non profit organization serving the legal needs of local immigrant families. CILC was recently awarded a grant by the Vera Institute of Justice, allowing Aissa to provide pro bono representation to low income families who are at risk of deportation. Aissa grew up just 10 miles north of the Texas/Mexico border, which is the reason for her passion surrounding immigrant rights and social justice. Aissa is married to Victor Garcia of Uvalde, Texas and they are parents of a beautiful 3 year old, Carolina. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org