We wait for our turn to speak on behalf of Miguel as other individuals approach the judge on this Monday morning at Federal Immigration Court.
There is a familiar routine and code of conduct that the legal professionals all seem to know. The dialogue moves quickly, and legal jargon is effortlessly exchanged between them.
Meanwhile, the person whose immigration case is being addressed speaks words softly into a headset, which are translated from Spanish into English by the courtroom translator.
I am struck by how nonchalantly each case is handled. The individual “on trial” is referred to mainly by a lengthy identification number rattled off before each hearing.
Each hearing ends with a compassionate yet firm warning that if the individual does not return to court for the next hearing, the judge will have no other option but to order him or her removed.
“Removed” – much like you might remove leaves from your lawn or trash from your kitchen. It is standard procedure. But there is nothing procedural about this for June.
June has written down Miguel’s identification number so she will remember it. She had to write it down because before today, it was not significant to her. Only Miguel’s name mattered to her.
In fact, when she introduces him to the judge, she does not use his identification number as the other attorneys have but instead calls him Dr. Miguel Ramos.
When it comes to our turn, the judge looks at June and asks if she is an attorney. She stands and explains the situation calmly and clearly.
At first, the judge says he will return to Miguel’s case later on. When the judge finally comes back to June, he emphasizes that Miguel should not have missed his court date.
He says he is not sure if there is anything he can do and is obligated to order a deportation “in absentia.”
The attorney from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who is seated right in front of us, looks at the documents June has prepared. And then, all of a sudden, the tone of the judge seems to shift.
He and the DHS attorney agree that they can dismiss the case in light of June’s recorded testimony and presented documents.
June doesn’t quite understand what has happened until the judge finally says, “You just saved him from deportation.” And then, it begins to sink in.
We leave the courtroom and immediately find ourselves in a tight embrace. With tears in her eyes, June asks me if her presentation made sense.
I tell her that she made total sense and I am so proud of her and her witness to Jesus Christ.
As we walk back to the car, we are both in awe of what just happened. June begins to text her multiple friends and family who have been praying for her and for Miguel.
She asked them to pray even though she often confesses to me that she is not sure how prayer really works.
She has faced enough loss in her life to know that God does not answer every prayer. And yet, she believed in prayer enough today to ask for it.
And now she is wondering if what just happened might have been a miracle. June, the Christian woman who is always comfortable with doubt, has just enough faith – perhaps the size of a mustard seed – that this might have been a miracle.
We do not understand the theological logistics, but we both agree that God was certainly present in that courtroom. And we are both grateful.
I am especially grateful for the opportunity to stand alongside June as she witnessed to the radically courageous love of Jesus. I’m reminded of what I love about ministry and about the church.
I tell her that she changed Miguel’s life that day. She immediately retorts, saying, “No, he changed mine.”
Editor’s note: This is the second article in a two-part series. The first part of the story is available here.
Jenna N. Sullivan is associate pastor at Magnolia Road Church Jonesboro, Arkansas.