If there is one story you should know about, it is the story of Nilda, a young Honduran woman who fled her country with her 2-year-old son, Keyden, in 2018. Words cannot begin to describe Nilda has gone through, so we will share her story here, with music from Calvin Harris, Benny Blanco, and Miguel):
It is also in Spanish.
The video was brought to our attention by Scott Hechinger, Senior Staff Attorney & Director of Policy for Brooklyn Defender Services, a public defense office that provides full legal representation to over 35,000 people each year in criminal, child welfare and immigration cases.
Hechinger coordinated the “While They Wait” campaign. He worked closely with Nilda, the musicians and video director, and partner organizations RAICES and ACLU of Southern California to conceptualize and launch the campaign.
We reached out to Hechinger to learn more about Nilda and the campaign:
LATINO REBELS: Why do this campaign now?
Hechinger: Today, there are over 300,000 people currently living in the United States applying for asylum who are struggling to survive while they wait to find out whether they’ll be allowed to stay in this country. They have been released from detention, but cannot work until they receive work authorizations, which can take months to receive, with no resources in the meantime for basic necessities like food, clothing, transportation and housing. Few have access to legal counsel to assist them navigate the confusing legal maze. Given the attention focused on those on the border or enduring family separation and detentions, most have overlooked the issue of what happens next was they are released. This community needs our help now.
LR: What is it about this case that is important to you?
Hechinger: In June 2018, my office helped advocate for the reunion of a young Honduran woman named Nilda & her 2-year-old son, Keyden. Nilda fled brutal domestic and gang violence in her country only to be met with more violence upon her arrival here: separated from Keyden at the border and detained for over 2 months until he was returned to her thousands of miles away in New York City. It hasn’t been a happy ending. She has been struggling, even with our advocacy, to be able to make ends meet. But she was brave enough to share her story. One of the first things she told us when we met her was that she wanted the world to know about what happened to her because because she did not want any one else to go through what she did. “If I don’t tell it, no one will.” We’re all inspired by her.
LR: What do you hope to get out of the campaign?
Hechinger: Through the “While They Wait” Fund, we want to raise as much funding as possible to be able to help pay for necessities, cover immigration fees, and secure legal services for those who risked everything to be here while they wait to find out if they can stay.
We want a critical mass of people to join our movement to demand a universal right to counsel in immigration proceedings. More generally, we want to raise awareness of this often overlooked community of people. They deserve better.