Bor­der Pa­trol agents no longer in­ter­preters

Fed­eral de­cree will force lo­cal law en­force­ment to seek pri­vate ser­vices.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By manuel Valdes

SEAT­TLE — U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol agents will no longer serve as in­ter­preters when lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies re­quest lan­guage help, ac­cord­ing to a new de­cree is­sued by the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

The new guid­ance said agents should re­fer such re­quests to pri­vate ser­vices of­ten used by government agen­cies.

Seek­ing lan­guage help is a com­mon prac­tice among lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies in Washington state. If a per­son is pulled over and can only speak Span­ish, the U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol is of­ten called.

How­ever, im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates com­plain that Bor­der Pa­trol agents ask peo­ple ques­tions about im­mi­gra­tion and in some cases ar­rest im­mi­grants sus­pected of be­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally.

“The con­cept of lan­guage ac­cess should be with­out peo­ple be­ing ques­tioned about their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus,” said Jorge Baron, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Seat­tle­based North­west Im­mi­grant Rights Project, a le­gal aid or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Im­mi­grants have grown ap­pre­hen­sive about call­ing lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies if they knew the Bor­der Pa­trol is go­ing to re­spond, he said.

The new Bor­der Pa­trol guid­ance should help, even though it leaves agents some room for de­ci­sion-mak­ing, he said.

The Bor­der Pa­trol said Thurs­day it is try­ing to use its re­sources ef­fi­ciently.

“The new guid­ance re­lated to re­quests for trans­la­tion ser­vices helps fur­ther fo­cus CBP ef­forts on its pri­mary mis­sion to se­cure our na­tion’s bor­ders.” a state­ment by Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion said. “CBP re­mains com- mit­ted to as­sist­ing our law en­force­ment part­ners in their en­force­ment ef­forts.”

The North­west Im­mi­grant Rights Project sent a let­ter in May to the De­part­ment of Jus­tice and Home­land Se­cu­rity say­ing the in­ter­pret­ing prac­tice vi­o­lated the Civil Rights Act.

The let­ter in­cluded dash­board cam­era video in which a Bor­der Pa­trol agent is heard us­ing a deroga­tory term for il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Af­ter the Sept. 11 at­tacks, Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush or­dered U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, which over­sees the Bor­der Pa­trol, to beef up its pres­ence on the U.S.Canada bor­der, which is al­most twice as long as the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

In 2007, the north­ern bor­der had about 1,100 agents. Now it has more than 2,200.

Along with pro­vid­ing lan­guage ser­vices, Bor­der Pa­trol agents of­ten as­sist lo­cal law agen­cies that are short on per­son­nel and equip­ment.

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