“A Translation Crisis At the Border”: U.S. Immigration Courts Are Failing Mayan Language Speakers


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As record numbers of migrants seek refuge and asylum in the United States, we look at a key problem preventing many of them from getting due process: inadequate translation for indigenous people who speak Mayan languages. Over the past year, of the 250,000 Guatemalan migrants detained at the U.S.-Mexican border, more than half are Mayans, and many speak no or little Spanish. Most of them are forced to rely on for-profit translation by phone. A new report in the New Yorker magazine headlined “A Translation Crisis at the Border” profiles grassroots interpreters who are helping immigrants navigate the courts and file asylum claims. We speak with New Yorker contributor Rachel Nolan and Zapotec interpreter Odilia Romero, an indigenous leader with the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations. Romero is a trilingual interpreter in Zapotec, Spanish and English.

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