The Hearing


The Hearing

From an Evening of Storytelling 2018

May/June 2018


So there I was in the courtroom. I walked up to the witness stand, put my right hand up in the air and my left hand on the Bible, and I promised to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. . . .

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This isn’t just a story about my time in court, facing a judge on behalf of my client, whose life, and perhaps those of her daughters, depended on the outcome of this immigration hearing. And, maybe surprisingly these days, this isn’t just a story about our country’s broken immigration system. It’s a story about a client who became so firmly lodged in my heart and mind that, for a time, her survival felt interchangeable with my own.

The night I first saw Adèle, I was volunteering at a walk-in counseling center. She was with an interpreter, who asked if there were any counselors who spoke Somali or French.

I speak French, I thought, and so I introduced myself to her. “Bonsoir. Je m’appelle Kirsten.

Je m’appelle Adèle,” she answered, and we walked back to one of the counseling rooms. She was a small woman, not more than five feet tall, wearing a dark flowing skirt that touched the floor and a hijab to cover her hair. Her face was drawn and sad. I could almost feel the weight that seemed to surround her.

In the tiny interview room at the clinic, we sat down. I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Finally, she looked at me and said, “Pourquoi vous

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