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AFTERWORD Following Jaime BY BARBARA FERRY JAIME WORKED as a paralegal in a church-funded legal office that represented Central American refugees who got caught crossing the border. He had worked there for five years, earning $150 a week. The office was on the second floor of a shabby building on the main street of a small town in South Texas, above a dress store called Angel’s. Directly across the street, the immigration court stood, bland and innocuous, with its Department of Justice seal on the door. The immigration service’s intention was to send as many refUgees back to the countries they had left and the legal office’s intention was to keep as many of them here. The two entities were thus arch-enemies. They were also pretty much the only gig in town. When I went down to join the anti-deportation forces as a volunteer, the lawyers in the office told me to follow Jaime around for a few weeks, until I got the hang of the routine. He was wearing a green suit jacket that looked like it came out the St. Vincent de Paul bin and old blue jeans the day he met me. at the airport. He wore a shadow of a goatee and a small smile. The smile didn’t seem to have anything to do with anything or anybody around him. It was an internal smile, the kind you see in old photos of Malcolm X, or paintings of religious mystics. Jaime is the Spanish version of James, which was the name he was given at his birthJames Cushman. He was blond, well over six feet tall and fair-skinned, no more a Latino than I. His skin was tanned though, from spending so much time in the south Texas sun. Some of the gringos who went down to the border looking for a cause or redemption from white guilt, or whatever it was we were looking for, adopted Latino names in order to identify with the poor and the oppressed. They wanted to “become” Latino But I don’t think this was the case with Jaime. I think he just figured it was easier for his Spanish-speaking clients to pronounce. The first thing he did after greeting me Barbara Ferry is a reporter with the Arizona Republic in Phoenix. was to point out the undercover INS agent waiting over near the baggage claim area, who was also wearing a green suit jacket,. though his was less shiny and shabby than Jaime’s: The two of them nodded cordially at each other. Then he drove me to his house, a white and yellow A-frame on the edge of town, which he shared with a varying number of refugees, and was now also going to share with me. The house was sinking like a ship into the ground. Inside the wooden floors sloped crazily and none of the windows or doors shut properly. There was a hand-lettered sign posted on the kitchen wall. “Rules for guests” it stated in Spanish. “Number one: “We will treat each other like brothers and sisters.” Rule number two was “Do not spit on the floor.” Mornings, we would climb into the office’s blue station wagon and drive east, past the stinking pork rendering plant, past cotton fields and dry riverbeds. Thirty-five miles later we would arrive at the INS detention center, a group of low-slung concrete buildings, on the grounds of a sanctuary for migratory birds. The men and women locked inside, less fortunate than the birds, called the detention center el corralon, the big corral. w E’D PULL into the parking lot, walk past the men in orange jumpsuits playing basketball behind the cyclone fence, wait for the guard to buzz the door and pass through the metal detector. For the next few hours we’d sit. in a beige padded booth that had the feel of a tiny confessional and listen to men with names like Epifanio and Eugenio. Jaime would ask them why they’d left their country, as he tried to fit their lives into the narrow spaces of a political asylum application. La situacion alli esta muy fea. they would often say. \(The situation there is for my life due to persecution based on my membership in the social group comprised of Guatemalan Indians.” In order for Central Americans to avoid being deported, they had to convince an immigration judge that something really terrible would happen to them if they were forced to go home. Having relatives who had been murdered was considered good evidence. Scars from bullet wounds, which could be shown off as courtroom exhibits were even better. Whenever a new client stepped into our booth, I found myself hoping that he would tell us a really horrible story so that we could offer him some chance of gaining his freedom. One time, after I had been there a while and graduated to my own tiny booth, Jaime called over to me. “I’ve got a good one. Salvadoran, a minor.” The boy, 16 years old, had come home one day to find his parents’ decapitated bodies lying in front of the house. “This is a great case,” he said, excitedly. “We’re going to win this one.” Then, hearing himself, he turned away, cursing under his breath. After a few hours, we would step out of the coolness of the detention center, into the radiating heat, and head back to town. I was struggling with Spanish, which I knew only from high school. The subjunctive tense, the voice that expressed uncertainty was giving me particular trouble.. Jaime suggested I listen to the lyrics of the Mexican songs on the radio. The songs were all about love and were, therefore, all written in the subjunctive tense. “Quiero que te vayas por el mundo,” the singer would wail. “Que conozcas mucha gente. Que te besen otros labios.” ” I want you to go out into the world. For many people to know you. For other lips to kiss yours.” We sang along with the radio all the way home. It worked. DURING THE Al. l’ERNOONS, Jaime would sit perched on a barstool behind his desk, often talk ing on two phones at once, yelling instructions to a detainee on one line, while coaxing money out of a client’s relative to pay a bond on the other. At the same time he would be shoveling down rice and beans out of a plastic yogurt container. This was the routine until six or seven in the evening, when we returned to the corralon for a few more hours in the interview booth. If you saw him walking down the streets of that small town in his second-hand clothes, you might think Jaime was one of the homeless men who wintered in South Texas and camped around the, artificial lake 22 AUGUST 5, 1994