Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Interpreting and Defending Migrants

The story that follows was first reported on here by Duke of MigraMatters on a post at The Sanctuary blog. Kyle at CitizenOrange also weighed in here.

The story has now made it to the front page of the The New York Times.

In plea agreements offered by Mr. Dummermuth, the immigrants could plead guilty to a document fraud charge and serve five months in prison. Otherwise, prosecutors would try them on more serious identity theft charges carrying a mandatory sentence of two years. In any scenario, even if they were acquitted, the immigrants would eventually be deported.

Worried about families they had been supporting with their wages, the immigrants readily chose to plead guilty because they did understand that was the fastest way to return home, Professor Camayd-Freixas said.

“They were hoping and they were begging everybody to deport them,” he said.

(Read Full Article)

The story involves Erik Camayd-Freixas who is a Certified Federal Courts Interpreter. He was one of the interpreters called upon to help with the hundreds of undocumented immigrants caught during the ICE raids at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa. The ICE raid netted some 297 undocumented immigrants, all who charged and prosecuted for illegal entry into the United States, identity theft and unlawfully using Social Security Numbers.

The full content of Professor Camayd-Freixas 14 Page Letter is posted here on the Hutto Galleons blog.

One can't read Camayd-Freixas letter and not come away at how unjustly ICE treated the undocumented immigrants snared in the raid and how the susequent court proceeding denied them basic legal rights. Here is an account from someone who witnessed firsthand the abuses and systematic disregard for both civil and human rights of these immigrants. The letter points out how largest ICE raid in history was clearly intended to be a pilot project, an experiment in "fast-tracking" .

The Times article along with the letter by Camayd-Freixas are likely to become quite controversial, but nevertheless a groundbreaking exposé, if not a clear indictment into the abusive actions of ICE.

The NY Times story and Professor Camayd-Freixas' written condemnations of the proceedings will also raise controversy within Language Interpreters, because most Language Interpreters will confess that their job is only to translate spoken words from one language into another. It's a difficult task to be an Interpreter, to have to bite your tongue and not speak out, to attempt to right a wrong, especially when it involves the civil or human rights.

To be fair what Camayd-Freixas has done is in fact controversial. It may even border on being professionally unethical, after all he could have simply recused himself from the proceedings, citing eithical and moral grounds. However, I agree with his actions and soundly applaud him for his speaking out. Prof. Camayd-Freixas has done something quite bold and courages by subjecting himself and participating in the court proceedings that were clearly in his view, unethical and immoral.

I'm sure the Right Wing pundits will widely critize him and question his motives. Critics will point to the fact that Camayd-Freixas violated his oath of impartiality and neutrality. They will point to his actions and comfortably rest in the notion that most Americans won't bother to read the contents of a 14 page letter on how the rights of undocumented immigrants were violated and yours could be next. Obviously a 14 page letter places limits on it's full publication and therefore only bits and pieces of so much information will only make it out into the MSM and even less largely disseminated, nevertheless, Camayd-Freixas is my hero of the day.

All those critics should ponder the following: In most jurisdictions, the interpretation is considered an essential part of the evidence. Incompetent interpretation, or simply failure to swear in the interpreter, can lead to a mistrial.

The question becomes, since most of the undocumented immigrants caught up in the Postville raids are still serving 5 month jail sentences before they are officially deported, will they be granted new trials since some of these immigrants with names like, Tajtaj, Xicay, Sajché, Sologüí were all provided Spanish Interpeters while they are clearly Mayan and their primary language is most likely an indigenous tongue.

Will the authorities do the right thing and afford these immigrants new trials? Afford them the right to be represented by immigration attorneys? Afforded with Intepreters who speak their Native Languages?

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