Criminal Mexicans Create Huge Demand for Spanish Court Interpreters at Taxpayer Expense

http://tiny.cc/UDJ0Z Yet another cost of the invasion. Mexicans are prone to crime, they came here illegally and continued to break our laws just like they break the law in their own country. You should be really pissed 

Shortages of Court Reporters Intensifies

Sunday, April 19, 2009 |

Five years after Santiago Ventura Morales arrived in an Oregon prison to begin his life sentence for murder, his conviction was thrown out when the courts determined the Mexico native didn’t get proper translation services during his trial.

A Montgomery County, Md., court in 2007 dismissed a pending sexual-abuse case against Liberian native Mahamu Kanneh because the case had been repeatedly delayed when officials couldn’t find an interpreter proficient in Vai – Kanneh’s native language.

These cases illustrate what can happen as a shortage of court interpreters spreads nationwide, leaving non-native speakers unable to comprehend a judge’s order or a lawyer’s advice.

“We’ve always had a shortage, but it’s more noticeable and more acute since we’ve had an influx of non-English speakers in the last few years,” said Isabel Framer, chairwoman of the National Association of Judicial Interpreters and Translators. “Not just in Spanish, but in all languages.”

In fiscal 2007, interpreters were needed in courtrooms more than 246,000 times – a 17 percent increase from the year before, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. About 2,500 people are certified to be court interpreters in the United States, Framer said.

Courts needed translators in 115 languages, according to the office. Spanish interpreters were requested 95 percent of the time, followed by Mandarin, Vietnamese, Russian, Cantonese, Arabic, Korean, Portuguese and Haitian Creole.

The U.S. Census Bureau said the Latino population in the United States grew more than three times faster than the general population between 2000 and 2006. Those trends, coupled with what experts say is insufficient funding to train and certify court interpreters, delays the flow of judicial activity for non-English speakers, officials said.

An ample supply of available interpreters would avoid trial delays and cut the ballooning backlog of cases, said Wanda Romberger, the manager of court interpreter services at the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va.

But “the denial of equal justice is the more profound issue,” she added.

That was the crux of the case in Oregon, where Ventura Morales was offered a Spanish translator when his native language is Mixtec, an indigenous language spoken in pockets of Mexico. According to a 1991 article from The Oregonian, an anthropologist from Reed College said Ventura Morales understood Spanish just well enough to buy and sell vegetables in a marketplace.

Overcoming Certification Program Obstacles

The Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification, which is run through the National Center for State Courts, was created in 1995 and now includes 40 states that have established a court interpreter certification program or is in the process of setting one up, according to the group.

Interpreters who want to be certified in Maryland must attend a one-day workshop, pass a written exam and an oral proficiency interview in English and the language in which they want to translate. They must also attend a two-day orientation and pass another oral certification examination if one is offered, according to the state’s Court Interpreter Program.

Members of a state-commissioned panel in 2004 that examined racial and ethnic issues in the Maryland judiciary also said the certification process was “difficult and lengthy” and had not produced enough interpreters for the Maryland courts.

Right now, there are 440 certified or otherwise eligible interpreters on the Maryland court’s registry, said Ksenia Boitsova, the state’s court interpreter program administrator.

Proper certification is crucial, experts say, because court interpreters must be proficient enough to translate complex legal terminology at a quick courtroom pace without omitting or summarizing information.

“There aren’t a lot of educational opportunities to be a qualified interpreter,” Romberger said. “Bilingual people go into the process not fully prepared, and just being bilingual isn’t enough. It requires a high level of skill that many people don’t have.”

To fill shortages, courts often rely on interpreters who aren’t formally certified. Because just a handful of states offer certification exams in languages other than Spanish, it’s difficult to become credentialed in those states, Framer said.

On the federal level, certification is offered only for Spanish, Navajo and Haitian-Creole languages, according to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.

The Maryland system actively recruits bilingual speakers by reaching out to local ethnic enclaves, schools, embassies and other community organizations, but very few interpreters are certified each year, Boitsova said.

“The certification process is time-consuming and rigorous,” she said.

And the problem is especially acute in rural areas.  

Richly-diverse metropolitan areas such as New York City, Miami and San Francisco have a larger pool of potential interpreters, officials said. But a mostly rural state such as Iowa had just eight certified court interpreters statewide, according to a Feb. 9 article in the Sioux City Journal.

“It certainly happens when there aren’t enough resources,” Romberger said about the use of uncertified translators. “It’s difficult to say to rural courts to not use uncredentialed interpreters.”

Boitsova said while they have enough certified interpreters in Spanish, the Maryland courts need interpreters in several Asian languages. Also, interpreters for the Eastern Shore area, western and southern Maryland are in demand, since most certified and otherwise eligible interpreters live in the Baltimore or Washington region.

“These are small or rural jurisdictions and their interpreter usage is not as high as in the larger populated jurisdictions,” Boitsova said. “They do not have need for languages other than Spanish very often; however, when they do occur, it is often difficult to find an interpreter.”

The Costs of Interpretation

Using uncertified court interpreters is also less expensive. Under federal regulations, a full-day’s work nets a certified or professionally qualified interpreter $384, while a non-certified one is paid $185 for the same work.

Salaried interpreters in the state systems can earn from a low of $26,000 annually in Arkansas to a high of $83,116 in New Jersey, according to the Consortium.

In fiscal year 2008, Maryland – which pays interpreters between $45 and $55 per hour – spent roughly $3.1 million in its district and circuit courts to pay for interpreters, Boitsova said.

Federal courts are required to provide and pay for a court interpreter whenever the government initiates a court proceeding – which includes all criminal cases, but not all civil cases.

In July 2002, Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell expanded his state’s court interpreter program to include civil and family law proceedings, according to a 2007 article from The Washington Post. Before then, the Maryland judiciary appointed interpreters just for criminal cases.

But states historically have not provided interpreters for all civil cases, said Framer, an Ohio resident who has been a certified court interpreter for 12 years.

An Indiana Supreme Court decision from January 2008 also addressed the pay issue. In the decision Arrieta v. State, the court ruled that the state didn’t have to pay for interpreters for non-English speaking defendants unless they were indigent.

“Just as a trial cannot proceed without a judge or a bailiff, an English-speaking court cannot consider non-English testimony without an interpreter,” Chief Justice Randall Terry Shepard wrote in the 11-page decision. “This analogy suggests that the government should provide proceedings interpreters when necessary in criminal proceedings, whether the witness has been called by the prosecution or the defense, and we perceive this as the practice now prevailing. In contrast, defense interpreters largely serve the defendant.”

In the decision, Indiana judges said they were unable to find interpreters 30 percent of the time they had needed one, which forced them to postpone hearings or allow family, friends, bilingual counsel or court personnel to pick up translation duties.

“As far as when you charge someone extra money to access the courts, money that they would not be charging anyone else, that’s where it becomes possible discrimination,” Framer said. “You’re excluding a particular group.”

In February 2007, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., sponsored legislation that would have provided $15 million each year for four years to help fund state certification programs for court interpreters. The bill was ultimately not voted on, and similar legislation hasn’t yet been proposed in this current Congress.

And as the economic calamity tightens states’ fiscal strings, Romberger said funding for interpreter programs could also take a hit.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we began seeing those effects,” she said.

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