By Leslie D.
Offsite Accompaniment is one of the various services which Taller de Jose offers. Accompaniment can be described differently by each client that Compañeras interact with. It might mean accompanying someone, due to language barriers. It can also mean accompanying for moral support. Each client we accompany and give our time to sees our work differently.
I had the pleasure of accompanying a couple, Olivia and Edwin*, to their Permanent Residency Interview at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building. They had visited me in the office about their upcoming interview the week prior and expressed their concerns. Their main worry was if I would be able to accompany them as a translator. I let them know it was a short notice, but that I would check my availability. To my surprise I was available, not only were Olivia and Edwin relieved and happy, but I also felt happy that I would be able to go with them. We finalized the appointment for the accompaniment and as they left I began feeling unsure if I would be able to successfully translate in their interview.
I began thinking about what I had gotten myself into. I was not prepared, I had no idea what to expect and I kept thinking about the short amount of time which I had to prepare. I immediately ran to a Compañera who had experience with immigration accompaniments. I am beyond grateful for the cohesive atmosphere that Taller de José creates within their staff that allows me to seek this guidance. Whether that is between Compañeras or with supervisors; I always feel comfortable asking questions or seeking advice. The Compañera, provided me with all the resources needed to prepare myself for the interview.
The day came and I was as prepared as I could be. I met with Olivia and Edwin at 7:30 am, and they were both very nervous. Olivia was concerned for what would occur in the interview, although her lawyer’s absence was also worrying her. We proceeded to go inside the building. As we waited for their appointment, Olivia mentioned to me that she assured her daughter that she loved her and that she was unsure of what could happen. The time was passing by and Olivia and Edwin’s lawyer still was not present. Olivia continuously turned to look at the people exiting the escalator, in hope that it was their lawyer.
The lawyer arrived, and shortly after we were called in for their interview. I began to feel nervous just as the clients felt, except for different reasons. As we approached the official, she said she spoke Spanish. The message was that my translation assistance was no longer needed. Immediately I told myself I would wait for my clients in the waiting room. Before I walked away Edwin and Olivia began to question if I would still wait for them and where would I be. I assured them I would be waiting in the waiting room. In that moment I realized how important accompaniment is to various clients. My clients were concerned for my presence.
They wanted to know that I would be there waiting once their interview was over. Sure enough when they exited the doors I caught them look around to find me. I waved my arm and I asked them how the interview went. They said it went well and that they felt relieved. I was glad to hear that, and as we left the building Olivia and Edwin exclaimed how thankful they were because I took the time to go with them, even if I was not able to translate. I did my best in providing moral support in an overwhelming situation for my clients and I also learned how I might actually be somewhat funny; At least Olivia and Edwin laughed at my jokes.
*Names and details have been altered in order to preserve client’s privacy