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Department of Homeland Security: Border Patrol Agents to No Longer Serve as Interpreters

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A new directive yesterday from the Department of Homeland Security announced that US Border Patrol agents will no longer serve as interpreters when local police and law enforcement agencies need language help.  According to the new guideline, translation help should now come from private services often used by government agencies.

Border Patrol agents who are called in as interpreters will sometimes go beyond the task of interpreting and start asking questions about immigration status, in some cases arresting people.  This can make immigrants wary of calling the police when they know that Border Patrol will become involved.  The disincentive to call the police can lead to unreported crimes and the withholding of information that would have otherwise been told to the police—which makes communities less safe.

As Jorge Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, told the Associated Press, “The concept of language access should be without people being questioned about their immigration status.”

In May, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sent a letter to the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security saying that the practice of using Border Patrol agents as interpreters violated the Civil Rights Act.

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