U.S. Border Family Separations & the Interpreter Brigade

Families Belong Together protest


As part of the ongoing policy enacted in the United States by the Trump administration, parents who cross the southern border without prior authorization are being separated forcibly from their children, including babies and toddlers. Some 2,300 children have been separated from their parents and housed in what the administration (euphemistically) calls "tender age shelters. As of today, only 38 of the youngest children have been reunited with their parents with the judicial system pressuring the current American government to speed up the reunification process.

Apparently, most of the migrant families detained hail from Guatemala and Central America. While most of these individuals speak Spanish, there are some that can only fully understand an indigenous tongue, such as Zapotec, K’iche’ and Mam, all of which have hundreds of thousands of native speakers.

Government officials and volunteers had trouble finding a way to communicate with people who did not speak Spanish. So that's when the so-called Interpreter Brigade, organized by Esther Navarro-Hall of Monterey, California, came to offer their assistance. Navarro-Hall initially started the Interpreter Brigade to help victims of the Mexico City earthquake last September and works actively with the Indigenous Front of Binational Nations

“If you cannot articulate well enough what happened to you, the court will probably find that you did not establish a motive, or a nexus, for your asylum,” says immigration attorney Robert Foss. Having an interpreter is essential “for due process, for a full and fair hearing.” 

Moreover, these limitations on language are not limited to just people coming from Latin America. At least 70 people from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have also been separated from their families, and organizations in the U.S. have also called for interpreters of Punjabi and other languages. 

Being separated from your father or mother is already hard (and cruel) enough when you're a child, and the added stress of being unable to communicate in a language you understand seems to add an especially cruel (and traumatizing) touch to the entire affair.

Or, as an immigration attorney in Oregon has said, "seeking asylum is not a crime." Thank goodness for organizations like the Interpreter Brigade that are meeting the needs of immigrants in these trying times.

Read the entire article from the Associated Press at this link.