Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), Portland District Office, Portland, Oregon

September 2003

At 7:50 A.M., ten minutes before the start of immigration court, I sat in the tiny visiting room of the Portland office’s detention section, which was not air-conditioned like the rest of the building. Beside me sat Byron, a heavyset attorney whose thinning hair needed to be cut and who was known among local lawyers for wearing only beige suits. He’d been assigned for the day to provide free counsel to whichever aliens on the morning docket did not have their own attorney, which meant all but one of the people on the list handed us by the guard. As a paralegal, I had been sent by my law firm to interpret for him during the short time allowed us before court and during recesses to meet with the detainees through the bulletproof glass. He didn’t seem particularly pleased to have been paired up with a girl barely out of college, but he didn’t speak a word of Spanish himself.

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