The immigrant, before a chapter 13

Before they make that last
resort move called filing
for chapter 13 bankruptcy,
the debt settlement agent
instructs her on what to say

to the credit collectors: she’s
given a few lines to practice
and they go over the script
as though she’ll be auditioning for
a role in a play though she

doesn’t really want to be in it.
When she feels ready, the agent rings
the 1-800 number and tells her she’ll
be listening; but will jump in only if
she needs additional support. This is

the part where she has to tell
the credit card people that yes
she knows she’s behind in pay-
ments; but see, they’re at a real
difficult time in their lives—

Things got out of hand, but they want
to get back on their feet. Eventually
they’re sure they can do it but only
if they would see how to cut them
some kind of break. They make

this kind of call four, five
times and before it’s over she’s
in tears. From the way it sounds,
the next step is likely
bankruptcy court, a place

that before this time she’s only
ever heard about on shows like Judge
Joe Brown or Judge Judy. It won’t
matter that they’ve come here legal,
it won’t matter that they’ve tried

to do everything by the book. It won’t
matter that they didn’t go on vacations
to save up for that elusive American
Dream whose price tag seems to vary
depending on the kind of immigrant you are.

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