See, we're located in a very heavily Hispanic neighborhood. As is true of most large cities, there are people living here who aren't supposed to be here. Some of them have been here for years (24 years, in one case) and many have had children here who, because they were born here, are supposed to be here. And ever since the ICE began its most recent crackdown, these people are scared. They're scared that somebody's going to arrest them at work or on their way home, and take them away, and then what will happen to their kids?
Because that is what's happening. ICE has shown up and arrested women during court hearings. ICE has walked into Hispanic-owned businesses and detained people. ICE has done "targeted actions" at locations frequented by Hispanic folks and just rounded up everybody.
Now, these are people who can't legally be here, so some of you might think all that is okay. Some folks think we should have been cracking down on undocumented immigrants all along, and I respect that. Some folks think we need a wall along the border, and while I can't imagine how that could possibly help, I do understand the mentality. I would argue that you can't really root out an estimated 11.4 million people and dump them on the other side of the border without some very serious societal and demographic consequences, but I do understand that some people are in favor of that. Anyway, that whole argument, while very interesting, is kind of beside the point of this blog post.
What we're concerned about here is what happens to the kids. The accidental orphans who stay behind when Mom and Dad disappear.
My boss is concerned about that too. That's why, when these people come streaming in, he helps them draw up the paperwork so that someone else--an aunt, a grandmother, a trusted friend--can take custody of the kids if anything happens. Documents that give the someone else permission to enroll the kids in school, get them medical care, stuff like that. You need documents like this to do just about anything for somebody's kid, if you're not the custodial parent. So that's what we've been doing. Word is spreading and so more and more people are coming. At first we were taking walk-ins just as they appeared, but now we've had to start setting appointments because there's not enough room in the lobby for everybody who's waiting.
(And by the way, I've gotten to be a regular whiz at saying, in Spanish, "Sign here please. This signature means X. This signature means Y." And stuff like that.)
Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it, we're doing this for free. What we'd ordinarily charge is way out of the reach of most of these folks.
I'm not going to tell you the name of the law firm. I can't, lest the steady stream of clients become a tsunami and the ICE starts staking out the office. But I can tell you this. Their kids, though usually shy around strangers and law firm people, are just like American kids. Kids who don't understand things like demographics and politics and international borders. Kids who don't want to go live with Aunt Lucy because their parents have been taken away.