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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Affidavit Of An Immigration Attorney

by Beatriz Ana Sandoval, Esq.

My name is Beatriz Ana Sandoval
I am an immigration attorney 
I was born on May 11, 1980, in Melrose Park, Illinois 
My parents, Juan Sandoval and Anita Velasco  
Were married in Guadalajara, Jalisco, in 1964. 
I don’t know how long  
My parents were separated  
While he came up and found our home  
Working his way through the networks of paisanos 
From the lettuce fields of Salinas, California 
To the steel factories of Chicago and Indiana 
While he worked and saved and  
found a place for his wife and my oldest brothers. 
It wasn’t fast enough for my namesake sister, Beatriz 
The first baby girl, she died of a fever at ten months  

Even so, some things were much easier then.
The old line in the sand was still in the memories
Of the older ones who had seen the way people came and went
Before the days of Operation Wetback in 1954,
days of brown workers rounded up and carted off
newborn babies not even baptized
Long before the bracero program
and its ten percent wage withholding,
millions of dollars
so many sun-chapped ex-braceros sitting in the shade of useless old-age
still haven't recovered from our goverments
but in 1970, papeles were so much easier to come by,
before NAFTA, before Bush, before the Department of Homeland Security with its
UnPatriot Act.

In El Salvador somewhere
There’s a two-room structure of straw, wood and mud,
A home I can’t let Yesenia, my client, return to
Not just because as a single mother she will find no work
Not just because there’s no school lunch—free or otherwise
No school cafeterias at all, no new books
no electricity in the house to light a lamp for her daughter to study
No family left to help her learn how to live in a world
Where the land no longer sustains as it used to.
Everyone left during the war, even her father
Left to get away from the guerrilla and paramilitaries
Eating his food, sleeping under his simple roof and laughing
At his baby girl playing with spent grenade casings
Seven years is how long it took them to get back together.   

I listen to father and daughter,
I think of my family and our stories, and find a way
To interpret what he says, and what he doesn’t say
About his baby granddaughter’s future
With no school lunch, coming home to a two-room shack   

Immigration lawyers are interpreters more than anything
Going between robed judges and pencil-pushing bureaucrats
And the ones they call alien and illegal
Translating something even more subtle than language
Uncovering the truths between the lines
Interpreting the stubborn silences
Or muted responses
Of those resigned to sacrifice   

I listen to this father, grandfather, patriarch
This man still working the midnight shift at 62 years old
And I hear a man afraid to leave his baby alone all over again.
This is what I try to tell the Judge
In between the tax returns and the medical records,
Postoperative reports of acute pancreatitis and
Eight other emergency room trips over two years time
Each with corresponding, dated index descriptions
Next to a capital letter compartmentalizing
As many different types of hardship I can piece together
In a two-hole punched filing for the judge
To flip through during a three or four hour hearing  

Where he will decide
How a granddaughter will get to grow up
In which ways a family will change
Which journeys will end or begin
and at what cost

and I don’t know which is harder to see
in my dreams and nightmares
the little girl crying without her father
the man powerless to help his children
a family on the verge of separation
or the volumes and exhibits
with their alphabet tabs and indexes
and the inescapable feeling
that I can’t keep them
from becoming
just a nine-digit number
beginning with the letter A  

I have prepared this affidavit
To explain
In great detail
That no human being is illegal
Or alien
That there’s no such thing as amnesty
That green cards aren’t handed out
With marriage certificates
But that, despite all this,
The wall-building minutemen and
Right-wing political appointees and
pocket-lining politicians
cannot stop this movement. 

The people will keep coming
Landing here on the tides of globalization, exploitation
Monopolization of opportunity,
Degradation of humanity,
And the insanity of more than half
Of the people in the world  Living on less than $2.00 a day.    

I have prepared this affidavit  

To attest
That no matter how much I feel
Like a stop-gap,
A dutch-boy with a finger in the dam,
A medic on a warfield of casualties,
I am in this because we all are
Because this country is all of ours
Because a land where I,
The daughter of a wetback steel worker
Can graduate law school and
Seek the chance to live up to the names I carry
Is something worth fighting for.    

So I put on my good suit
Go to court, go to work
To set Yesenia apart from
All the other single mothers
That file through the judge’s courtroom
In the end she wins her green card,
I get a small victory, and the judge
Gets to cross a nine-digit number
off his never-ending list.  

But I never know why.
If it is the baby girl, or the fourteen different
Evidences of physical presence, school ID’s and paystubs
Vaccination cards with scribbled dates and dog-eared corners
Jammed somewhere in between
Tabs A and V  

So I have to keep on explaining,
Documenting,
Interpreting
These things
I hope
Someday
We all will see.


About The Author

Beatriz A. Sandoval, Esq. is an associate attorney at the law firm Hughes Socol Piers Resnick and Dym, Ltd., in Chicago, where she represents individual clients in a variety of immigration and citizenship matters, including removal defense and asylum. Ms. Sandoval received her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 2005, and her B.A. from Washington University in 2002 in English Literature/Spanish Language. She has practiced immigration law since 2005. In addition to practicing law and writing, Ms. Sandoval enjoys riding motorcycles, knitting for her eight nieces and nephews, and traveling to Mexico, where she visits relatives and bears witness to important indigenous social and cultural movements, particularly the Zapatista movement in the southernmost state of Chiapas. She is the youngest daughter in a first-generation Mexican-American family of nine children, an experience that inspires both her writing and her advocacy on behalf of immigrant families and individuals.


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