The Dream Act Starts with You


First court appearance

This post is part of a series, please click here to read the older post.

As I walked out of the jail, confusion took over my mind. I did not know where I was or how to get to my original destination, University of Rochester. I called a few friends to orient myself. We discovered that I was in Auburn, NY. One of my friends immediately got in touch with a minister of Uniterian Universalist Church in Syracuse who offered to take me in for the night and drive me to Rochester the following day.


The next day, before driving me to Rochester, the minister helped me recover my confiscated belongings which were being held at the ICE building in Syracuse. A man brought out a big tarp white bag with all of my belongings in it, including my college diploma. After leaving the building, we departed for Rochester.

Along the car ride, I looked through the documents that I was given when I got out of jail. There was the Notice to Appear which had been given to me by the Border Patrol. There was no date assigned for a court hearing. In about two hours, the minister dropped me off in front of an apartment I had secured a few months before.

Later that summer, about three months after being bailed out of jail, I was summoned to my first court appearance. I got the notice by mail one afternoon after coming back from classes. Not knowing what to expect really frightened me. A friend from Chicago offered to drive me to Buffalo, since after riding on the Greyhound bus in May, I was reluctant to endure another encounter with Border Patrol agents.

I expected that the judge would order me deported on the spot at this hearing. That did not happen. I would later discover that in a “master hearing” the immigration judge evaluates incoming cases and determines the next steps in the removal proceedings. As my friend and I entered the court room, many other immigrants and their lawyers also entered the same room. The judge, a white man in his fifties, dressed in a black robe, came into the room, everyone stood up, and he made a hand motion to indicate we were allowed to have a seat.

Those who had lawyers were dispatched by the judge first. After that, I was called to the stand. The judge asked me if I knew why I was there and I replied, “Yes, your honor.” After taking the oath to tell the truth, he addressed the fact that I did not have legal representation. He asked me if I wanted to seek legal counsel before proceedings, and I said, “Yes, your honor.” As he searched through my file, he noticed the documents that Border Patrol had tried to make me sign, including the Warrant of Arrest. While looking at the papers, he asked with an angry tone of voice, “Why didn’t you sign these documents?” I replied, nervously, “I was confused.” At that point, he set another appointment in the calendar and proceeded to the next case. My friend and I left the courtroom.

As soon as we exited the building, my friend noticed I was unable to say a word. As I got into the car, I suddenly began to cry, unable to stop for several minutes. At the moment, I didn’t know why I cried. Maybe because I was happy that I had more time with my family, or even perhaps because the possibility of continuing to work on my master’s degree, or maybe because I left the court room with more uncertainty than I entered with.

(Come back tomorrow for the next part)