Santa Clara University

Santa Clara Magazine

Angela E. Bustos '07

Every day, clients come to the Central American Resource Center in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles to explore their options for immigration relief. My role as a Jesuit Volunteer at this organization is to analyze clients' situations, determine whether a viable immigration case exists, and complete their applications. Buried under mounting paperwork and legal technicalities are the harrowing stories of my clients. The walls of my office regularly absorb the tears of mothers who left their toddlers behind so they could find better employment in the United States. Fifteen years have since passed and they know their adolescent children only through the cold media of photos and phone calls. Some have literally asked me, "Did I do the right thing?" An empathetic look is the best response I can muster. Other clients have been demanding and curt: I choose to believe their rudeness is a product of living undocumented and shortchanged in a country that promised them everything. For my clients, being slighted by immigration law is merely the latest hardship they face. Despite it all, most of my clients maintain a clear perspective and insist on simply carrying on. Their lives are simultaneously tough and fragile; it is my role to help them navigate this tension. Every day, I question whether I am worthy to carry such responsibility. But my clients' perseverance reminds me to turn down my self-doubt and take in the lessons these seasoned teachers offer.