You seldom know when it will be the last time. We are always aware of the firsts, but we are unaware of the last ones: The first kicks in the womb, the first steps, the first word, the first day of school, the first boyfriend, the first kiss, the first time, the first graduation, the first car, the first house, the first death, the first marriage, the first divorce, the first job … the first ones are marked; the last we tend to forget them, without knowing it, perhaps with longing or maybe with indifference.
That is what Dunia Juárez Hernández thinks in a detention center in the United States, one week after turning herself into the authorities in search of asylum. The 20-year-old Honduran left the shelter in Piedras Negras with the hope of not returning and that yearning took away the memory of the last time in that place, with strangers who became her own. On August 8, she crossed over to the other side and was in the custody of the American authorities.
Now, in the forced confinement, the woman hugs her 4-year-old son and rubs her belly imagining the one who is coming. She did not think that when she left Honduras it would be the last time she would see her family, the last time she would spend a night alone with her husband, the last time her child would sleep without fear, the last time that innocence of not knowing the world would protect her, the last time she would be live by her own means without living out of mercy, the last time being Dunia, the little woman, the last time she would have sex and the last time to imagine what it would be like to live on the American side.
Now she is discovering the first time of feeling close to the possibility of her child being born in the North and being ripped off for lack of papers, the first time discovering the fear of being separated from her little Marlon, for being here undocumented, the first time to fear that her lover will flee to never return, the first time to depend on aid and alms to not die of hunger, the first time that hope is much more like despair … the first time she values the need of a lawyer.
The Central American family has become a statistic of undocumented immigrants in the United States who do not have a legal representative to accompany them to court, to advise them or even give them light on their case. The asylum may never come, and not because they do not have a case, but there is no one to present it.
According to a study by the Faculty of Law of the University of Pennsylvania, migrants are more likely to obtain an immigration benefit if they have a lawyer, almost twice as much; those who do not, end up deported or far from their own. Some parents who were separated from their children on the border under the zero-tolerance policy of the Trump administration signed papers without knowing what they were saying; a few gave up custody, others renounced their rights and many more accepted an expedited deportation with the mere verbal promise to return to be with their own. Not speaking English and not finishing primary school is costing them the opportunity for a better life; Being poor and not being able to afford a good immigration lawyer could cost them their own version of the American dream.
That’s why Dunia prays that a volunteer lawyer will come to this center to listen to her and help her … but while she waits, she has no choice but to remember the first few times, because of the latter she seems to be losing her count.