The ATA Chronicle - July/August 2020 - 20

FEATURE

BY ROBIN RAGAN
up the Northern Triangle: El Salvador,
Guatemala, and Honduras.
Due to MPP, thousands of asylum
seekers are living in tent cities on
the Mexican side of our border. In
Matamoros alone, there are at least
3,000 people in camps waiting months
for their turn to appear in court.
During this period, they need access to
legal and health services, which often
means they also need translation and
interpreting services. Dozens of agencies
with committed volunteers are doing
their best to fill the gaps. Likewise,
thousands of asylum seekers linger
in detention centers on the U.S. side,
oftentimes detained with their children.
While hundreds of volunteer lawyers,
social workers, and psychologists
work to provide pro bono services to
these detainees, most of them require
an interpreter for interviews and a
translator for documentation.

Going All in to Help Asylum Seekers
at the U.S.-Mexico Border
As someone who has served on the ground at detention centers near the
border and remotely from my home, I'm here to tell you that there's an
urgent humanitarian need for the skill sets of ATA members.

F

or trained translators and
interpreters, there's a special role
to play at the U.S.-Mexico border,
whether on the ground or remotely. The
backlog of cases, recent implementation
of Migrant Protection Protocols1 (MPP,
more aptly known as the "Remain
in Mexico Policy"), and now with
COVID-19, your time and energy are
greatly needed.
I've served on the ground at
detention centers near the border
and remotely from my home in rural
Illinois, lending my time as a translator,
interpreter, and in other legal assistant
capacities for asylum seekers at our
20

The ATA Chronicle | July/August 2020

border. Based on these experiences, I'm
here to tell you that there's an urgent
humanitarian need for the skill sets of
ATA members.
Though we constantly hear about
asylum seekers from Central America,
asylum seekers arrive from over 218
countries.2 For this reason, don't assume
that Spanish is the only language needed.
Arabic, French, Portuguese, and many
indigenous languages of Central America
are also in great demand. According
to the Migration Policy Institute, 21%
of asylum seekers in 2017 were from
China, constituting the largest group3,
followed by the three countries making

If you have the skills to perform
consecutive interpreting for
an extended period and the
emotional fortitude to handle
traumatic stories, then you're
ready and qualified to dive in.

WHAT ABOUT TITLE VI? OR THE RIGHT
TO AN ATTORNEY?
Many of us have been trained to recite
Title VI as a backing for language
access advocacy. This section of the
Civil Rights Act4 has been invoked to
guarantee translation and interpreting
services to any individual requiring
them, if that service is funded by the
federal government. As U.S. citizens,
we also know that anyone accused of
committing a crime has the right to
an attorney if they cannot afford one.
Neither of these rights applies to asylum
seekers in detention centers on U.S.
soil. They sit caught between a catch-22
of civil and criminal court. Their only
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The ATA Chronicle - July/August 2020

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The ATA Chronicle - July/August 2020 - Cover4
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