Increase in Guatemalan Migrants Spurs Need for Mayan Interpreters

Molly Smith at Reporting Texas chronicles how, several years after the new crisis sending new waves of asylum speakers to the United States, there still is an inadequate interpreter infrastructure to ensure their right to tell their story is protected.

Given the difficulty of finding a qualified interpreter for court hearings, many detained clients chose to argue their case in Spanish so as not to delay the hearing even though they are not fluent. “We’ll remind them that they have the right to an interpreter in their language, but they don’t want to risk the delay,” said Pasch.

Elbia plans to argue her asylum case in Spanish the next chance she gets because she believes she will be able to do a better job representing herself as her confidence in Spanish grows. She also doesn’t want to risk being assigned a speaker of another dialect. “I’m going to keep fighting it,” she said.

Still, she worries she won’t be able to respond adequately to questions that focus on details or specifics of her case, and she cannot read or write in Spanish.






Know Your Rights Videos in Mam and Ixil

Thanks to the Mayan League, and many generous collaborators, short videos in Mam and Ixil are available as an introduction to the rights of immigrants. Please see the message below from Executive Director Juanita Cabrera Lopez and share the videos!

Dear Colleagues:

I share with you KNOW YOUR RIGHTS PSA in two Mayan Languages, Maya Mam and Maya Ixil. This is an indigenous led and produced PSA project.

Please share this information widely in your network.  Many people from Guatemala in the United States are Maya and speak 1 of 22 Distinct Mayan Languages as their first language, with Spanish as their second. For many in our community, they are not Spanish native speakers and they may not know how to read in their Mayan language so we felt that an audio explanation of Know Your Rights during a Raid in our language was important.  We could not have done this without the careful analysis and time of indigenous leaders in the DC/MD/VA area who are all at risk under the current Executive Order. We also had gracious technical support from allies in the community. We look forward to working with you to continue building specific information and tools for our community.

Maya Mam
Maya Ixil

Please share this widely in your network to help our community better understand their rights.

Thank you,

Juanita Cabrera Lopez
Maya Mam

Executive Director

International Mayan League


Extranjero en su propio país: el idioma como barrera para la justicia

Here is a new article from La Hora, a Guatemalan newspaper, about the use of indigenous languages in Guatemalan Courts. Read it all:

El idioma es una barrera que imposibilita el acceso a la justicia a muchos guatemaltecos. De acuerdo con la Dirección General de Educación Bilingüe Intercultural (Digebi), en el país se hablan 24 idiomas además del español, de los cuales 22 son idiomas mayas, más el idioma xinka y el idioma garífuna. Sin embargo, hasta hace tres años, el Organismo Judicial no tenía un ente encargado de asegurar la impartición de justicia en el idioma propio y desde entonces ha emprendido una tarea que cada vez se complejiza más.

As Mayan Speakers Immigrate, Their Ancient Language Is Often Lost in Translation

screenshot_2015-11-05_10-11-40As more Mayan speakers immigrate to the U.S., translators of the ancient language have seen calls from authorities to translate increase.
YouTube/Mark Van Stone

Listen to the full story from KUT 90.5 here:

As Mayan Speakers Immigrate, Their Ancient Language Is Often Lost in Translation

“A lot of these people will be perfectly capable of purchasing beans or tortillas or beer at a store in Spanish,” Romero says. “But then engaging the police or working with a lawyer or declaring in front of a judge is not something they would be able to do.”