The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a new guidance to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) prohibiting them from responding to requests for translation assistance from other law enforcement organizations. Now, U.S. Border Patrol agents are directed to refer the requests to private local and national translation services.
There have been various problems that have resulted from Border Patrol agents providing English-Spanish translations for local law enforcement. With more access to noncitizens, Border Patrol agents had the opportunity to ask individuals questions about their immigration status which resulted in removal proceedings. “These practices have unconstitutionally targeted individuals for deportation based on the fact that they looked or sounded foreign,” according to groups challenging the practice.
There have been mixed responses to the guidance issued as safety advocates have expressed concerns that non-English speakers have been reluctant to call police in cases of emergencies fearing they or their families will be deported. A Vermont dairy farm worker unintentionally called 911 and the police along with Border Patrol agents showed up to take the workers into custody. After witnessing such an event, many other workers said they would not call the police even if they were seriously injured and needed medical assistance. It is not beneficial for the community to fear the police especially in serious cases where the medical professionals could help. Some fear that victims of domestic violence who need police protection will not call for help for fear of immigration enforcement. As a result, New York police officers are prohibited from asking about the immigration status of individuals seeking police assistance.
DHS has not openly stated the reason for the policy change, but the guidance has come after many advocacy groups criticized the DHS for human rights violations. “For example, in a report issued last April, One America documented 135 incidents in which immigrants’ human rights were violated in several counties in Washington State. Of these, a whopping 38% involved the use of Border Patrol agents as interpreters.” The following month, the Northwest Immigrants’ Rights Project filed a complaint with DHS on behalf of six Washington state residents who were faced with removal proceedings after Border Patrol responded to their requests for interpretation assistance from various police agencies.
There are various new policies that are taking place in order to ensure that citizens, noncitizens and agencies are protected and no human rights are being violated. The new guidance sounds like DHS may be beginning to amend their interpretation policies. The agency has to continue refining their policies if they want to protect noncitizens’ rights during encounters with law enforcement.
It is unclear if these changes have spread to the St. Louis, Missouri and Southern Illinois area. f you have questions regarding immigration laws in Missouri, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.