Trump Administration Replacing In-Person Interpreters at First Hearings With Videos

Updated: Jan 15

The Current Administration Cites Improved “Efficiency” While Trashing Justice and Due-Process

On Wednesday, multiple reports described how the Trump administration is preparing to replace in-court interpreters with pre-recorded videos as the main means of informing those facing deportation of their rights.

Members of the language community are concerned that this new policy will not only jeopardize due-process rights afforded to every individual, but also layer-on additional confusion to an already overwhelmed agency, and will actually make the immigration system less efficient with increased appeals. 

What happens if someone has a question about their rights? How will a judge be able to clearly discern a case without proper and adequate communication? How many indigenous languages will the pre-recordings cover?


We fear this policy will actually result in delayed hearings, furthering the backlog that is already approaching 1 million cases, as well as creating many more appeals cases when appellants cite unfair treatment or lack of adequate services. 



It comes, unfortunately, as no surprise: this new policy is in-line with other actions the administration has taken to limit language access services at the border and throughout the United States. 

Now, they are attempting to force immigration judges to do more with fewer resources at the risk of fairness. 


Stripping critical language resources for US immigration officials that serve to (literally) communicate the ideals of justice and due-process does not align with our ideals of justice itself. Part of JNCL-NCLIS’s mission is our commitment “to advance the language profession in the US, and to raise awareness about the importance of language and international education to the national interest.” 


We urge you to write to your Congressperson to raise awareness of this misguided policy, and ask the Congress to hold the President and his administration accountable under U.S. Code, Title 5, Part 1, Chapter 8.


Below is a sample letter to Congress on this issue:

Subject: Don’t replace immigration interpreters with video recordings! 


Message Body: As a constituent and a member of the language community, I write to your office to raise awareness about the Trump Administration’s disgraceful policy of depriving those at the border of in-person interpreters and replacing them with a pre-recorded video.  


I am extremely concerned that this new policy will not only jeopardize due-process rights afforded to every individual, but also layer-on additional confusion to an already overwhelmed agency, and will actually make the immigration system less efficient with legal challenges.


Denying persons in this country due-process is concerning, and this policy immediately triggers several questions I think you should consider: What happens if someone has a question about their rights? With whom do they speak? How will a judge be able to clearly discern the nuances of a case without proper and adequate communication? In which indigenous languages will the pre-recordings be provided? 


With fresh reports of migrants dying on US soil because immigration officials were not able to communicate, cutting communication resources is a step backwards to solving the crisis at the border. 


I fear this policy will actually result in delayed hearings, furthering the backlog that is already approaching 1 million cases, as well as creating many more appeals cases when appellants cite unfair treatment or lack of adequate services. The administration is attempting to force immigration judges to do more with fewer resources at the risk of fairness, stripping critical language resources for US immigration officials and those who they serve. 


I urge you to speak out against the implementation of the President’s bad policy and preserve the due-process afforded to all individuals in this country. 


Sincerely,