Alma David: 1/ The day of my 9 year old client’s immigration court hearing, as we were riding the elevator down from my office, a man got in and smiled and asked my client if he was going to school. “No, I’m not going to school,” he said.
Alma David is an immigration attorney. She represented a nine-year-old from Guatemala in a deportation hearing. This is her Twitter account of what happened, republished with her permission.
2/ “Well then are you going to do something fun?” asked the man. “Yeah!” said my client, and smiled. On the elevator ride up to the immigration court on the 25th floor, he giggled at how fast we were going.
3/ My client’s mother – back in the US after a 2012 deportation (she doesn’t speak English or Spanish and couldn’t explain to the border agents her fear of return) testified on my client’s behalf, since he is 9 and unable to explain why he would be in danger in his home country.
4/ She described her suffering in her home country; first in the aftermath of the civil war, when the military, as part of their “scorched earth campaign” burned down her entire village, as everyone who lived there was indigenous and therefore suspected of harboring guerillas;
5/ then, when the humiliation of that war took its toll on her family, and her father turned violent against his wife and children;
6/ how she was afraid when her husband left to the U.S. to try to lift her and their two young children out of never-enough-food-to-eat poverty, because she’d heard of other women, left behind by their husbands, being raped by the gangs that had started roaming around their town,
7/…women, who were viewed as easy prey, now that they no longer had their men to protect them. She didn’t want her son to grow up with violence becoming a normal part of his life, as it had been part of hers, so she brought him here.
8/ Half way through her testimony, my client, who had been making paper airplanes, totally oblivious to what was going on around him, got bored. He got up out of his chair and started walking around the court room.
9/ He went over to the desk of the ICE attorney, whose job it was to argue for my client’s deportation, leaned on the desk and beamed up at the ICE attorney. “HI!” he said. The ICE attorney smiled back at him and gestured at me to get my client to sit back down in his chair.
10/ The DHS attorney’s questioning of my client’s mother was gentle this time (it often is not) – he knew he had won and thankfully didn’t feel the need to belabor the point. The judge politely asked my client’s mother some questions – they were quite gentle, too.
11/ She answered them all with the honesty of someone, who had never even thought about embellishing her story because her fear for her and her son’s safety was as real to her as the fact that the sun rises in the morning.
12/ The judge’s clerk brought me a cup of hot tea because she could hear I was losing my voice. We took a short break. My client pointed at the framed photos hanging in the immigration court hall. “Donald Trump!” he said and giggled.
13/ At the end of the hearing, the judge ordered my client deported. He said he had no doubt that my client’s mother’s fears for her and her son’s safety were real and justified, but that they didn’t provide a basis for my client to remain in the US under our immigration laws.
14/ When we walked out of the court room, my client waved at the judge and said “Good bye!” “Good bye and good luck,” said the judge. He advised me with a grin that bourbon was the best remedy for a hoarse throat.
15/ It’s hard to see the North Star sometimes in this upside down world.