Below are preliminary resources regarding the rights of individuals to participate in legal proceedings. This is not comprehensive legal research but rather only serves as a starting point for further inquiry.
- El Rescate Legal Services, Inc. v. Executive Office of Immigration Review, 959 F.2d 742 (9th Cir. 1991). Ninth Circuit concluded that the U.S. district court had jurisdiction to determine whether the use of incompetent translators or the failure to provide full interpretation of immigration court hearings violates the due process and equal protections clauses of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
- Nazarova v. INS, 171 F.3d 478 (7th Cir. 1999). Ukrainian denied due process when she was not notified of her right to an interpreter in deportation proceedings, hired her own private interpreter, and ordered deported in absentia when she arrived at her hearing two hours late because of the fault of the interpreter.
- Perez-Lastor v. INS, 208 F.3d 773 (9th Cir. 2000). In case concerning asylum seeker from Guatemala who spoke Quiche, finding due process denied when translation provided was incompetent and prejudiced individual. BIA decision reversed and remanded.
- Matter of Tomas, 19 I. & N. Dec. 464, 1987 WL 108944 (B.I.A. 1987). The Board of Immigration Appeals stated that where respondents are not fluent in English, the presence of a competent interpreter is essential to assure fundamental fairness, particularly in phases which require the respondents’ meaningful participation. The Board noted that the respondents, indigenous Guatemalans who spoke Kanjobal, had the burden of proving their entitlement to asylum and withholding of deportation, and had to be given a meaningful opportunity to present testimony on their own behalf. It was thus a reversible error for the immigration judge to deny a continuance to obtain a Kanjobal interpreter and to expect the respondents to proceed with a Spanish interpreter.
- The Executive Office for Immigration Review Releases Language Access Plan
- The Executive Office for Immigration Review’s Plan for Ensuring Limited English Proficient Persons Have Meaningful Access to EOIR Service
4.11 InterpretersInterpreters are provided at government expense to individuals whose command of the English language is inadequate to fully understand and participate in removal proceedings. In general, the Immigration Court endeavors to accommodate the language needs of all respondents and witnesses. The Immigration Court will arrange for an interpreter both during the individual calendar hearing and, if necessary, the master calendar hearing. See 8 C.F.R. 1003.22, Chapter 4.15(o) (Other requests).The Immigration Court uses staff interpreters employed by the Immigration Court, contract interpreters, and telephonic interpretation services. Staff interpreters take an oath to interpret and translate accurately at the time they are employed by the Department of Justice. Contract interpreters take an oath to interpret and translate accurately in court.See 8 C.F.R. 1003.22.
Q: Should I Bring an Interpreter to My Asylum Interview?
A: We do not provide any interpreters during the asylum interview, except in the case of hearing-impaired applicants*. You must bring an interpreter if you do not speak English well enough to proceed with the interview in English. The interpreter must be fluent in English and a language you speak fluently and must be at least 18 years old.
The following persons cannot serve as your interpreter:
- Your attorney or representative of record
- A witness testifying on your behalf at the interview; or·
- A representative or employee of the government of your country.
The regulation relating to interpreters can be found at: 8 CFR 208.9(g).
Although we do not provide interpreters for the interview, we use contract interpreters to monitor affirmative asylum interviews at local asylum offices and other locations. In general, the role of the contract interpreter is limited to monitoring interpretation by an interpreter provided by the applicant. Contract interpreters may be expected to occasionally interject if the applicant’s interpreter fails to provide adequate, accurate, and neutral interpretation.
- National Immigration Project, Immigration Law and Defense § 7.52 Interpreters (2015).
- American Bar Association, Standards for Language Access in Courts, (2012). “The Standards and extensive commentary provide guidance to courts in designing, implementing, and enforcing a comprehensive system of language access services that is suited to the needs in the communities they serve. A system of language access services is required as a fundamental principle of law, fairness, and access to justice, and to promote the integrity and accuracy of judicial proceedings, so that persons needing to access the court are able to do so in a language they understand, and are able to be understood by the court. The Standards were developed as a joint project of 5 entities, and with the guidance of a large advisory group comprised of judges, court administrators, advocates and others.”
- Brennan Center for Justice (Lauren K. Abel), Language Access in Immigration Courts (2011). Overview of EOIR obligations and suggestions for reform. http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/Justice/LangAccess/Language_Access_in_Immigration_Courts.pdf
- Laura K. Abel, Language Access in the Federal Courts, 61 Drake L. Rev. (2013). A survey of language access throughout the federal court system, with a significant focus on immigration.
- Helen J. Beardsley, El Rescate Legal Services v. EOIR: Immigration and Naturalization Service not Required to Provide Full Translation of Immigration Proceedings for Non-English Speaking Aliens, 22 Golden Gate U. L. Rev. (1992). This article provides some history of the issue of language access in immigration proceedings.