Border Patrol to Stop Acting as Interpreters for Local Police

By Liz Jones

When a police officer needs to question someone in Spanish, or another language, they can no longer use Border Patrol agents as interpreters.  This change in federal policy comes after complaints from immigrant advocates in Washington State.The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle filed the federal complaint earlier this year.

It lays out cases where local law enforcement called in border patrol agents to interpret for Spanish speakers. According to the complaint, agents did much more than translate.

Jorge Baron heads the immigrant rights group. He recalls a recent situation where local police brought in border agents on a domestic violence call.

Baron: BP had already shown up to provide interpretation assistance but ended up arresting the victim and detaining them and putting them in deportation proceedings.”

Baron says the deportation case was eventually dropped.

Baron: “But you can imagine the negative implication for community members when they hear that somebody’s who’s a victim of domestic violence was a person who was placed in deportation proceedings.”

He says it makes undocumented immigrants reluctant to call to police for help.

Now, Homeland Security has issued new guidelines for border agents.

It says if local law enforcement call solely for interpretation help, agents should refer them to a private service.

A spokesman for the Washington State Patrol says that may cause delays or problems in rural areas where language resources are limited.

Since 9/11, the number of border agents in Washington has more than doubled.

Immigrant advocates has pushed backed against other contentious enforcement practices, like highway checkpoints. They’ve also filed complaints against racial profiling.

Border Patrol has said it prohibits profiling and is doing its job to enforce immigration laws.

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