By Vanessa Camacho
After my first week at Taller de José, I told my friends that our accompaniment model felt like a natural transition out of the role that so many of my friends and family members play in our families. We, the American-born and English-speaking children, were often asked to translate a mailed notice, interpret at a parent-teacher conference, or go with someone to a bank. In fact, just weeks before I started my internship at Taller de José, I had interpreted for a family member closing an account. But as much as we wanted to help our families, sometimes the responsibilities felt too grown-up for kids like us.
This last month, I was blessed with the opportunity to help a family whose mother was involved in removal proceedings. This woman came into my office with her husband and youngest daughter, a high schooler. At the request of her lawyer, we spent the morning crafting a letter for her case in which she laid out her desires in coming to the U.S., her goals for her family, and the suffering they would strive to endure if she was separated from them. As they told their family’s history, hopes, and horrors, I also shared with them some of my family’s own experiences with “voluntary” removal and deportation. After I shared this, I could see them visibly relaxing their tense bodies. I think they were relieved to discover that they were not merely receiving a one-way sympathy, but participating in a two-way empathy.
When I had finished writing the letter, I instinctively asked their American-born, English-speaking daughter to double-check my work. In that moment, the easy, comforting atmosphere disappeared, and the daughter asked, “Me? Do I have to?” Her parents looked back and forth between their daughter and me, unsure of what to do. I had thought that her language skills and intimate knowledge of the content of the letter and their lives meant she could, and should, help. But when I felt the change in mood of the room, I looked again.
I saw a young, nervous face looking back at me, and I realized that a child shouldn’t have to bear the responsibility of arguing in favor of her mother staying in the States with her family. This was why these parents came to Taller de José! They came so that their child could be a child, and so that another adult could share the adult responsibilities with them.
Some of the people I have formed relationships with through Taller de José have adult children. Some of them have no children at all. But this relational ministry is not just about children getting to be children. We exist because no person should have to carry their responsibilities alone, and there is joy and strength to be found in carrying our responsibilities together.