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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Advice from a Court Interpreter

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Without interpreters, the Immigration Court system could not operate.  One of the best interpreters I've worked with is Maria Raquel McFadden.  She is a freelance business, legal, and immigration interpreter with 10 years experience.  She has interpreted in various forums, including courts, immigration interviews, depositions, and business meetings.  She is registered with the State of Maryland and can be reached at: (202) 709-3602 (office) or (202) 360-2736 (cell).  Her email address is mcfadden.maria@gmail.com.  Ms. McFadden offers some advice on how best to utilize an interpreter:


Many people who are scheduled for interviews before the asylum office or immigration court speak little or no English. Often they have never used the services of an interpreter before.


Being aware of the function of an interpreter can help the process go along more smoothly. The interpreter's role is to remove the language barrier to the extent possible, so that the access to justice for a person with non- or limited English skills is the same as that of similarly situated English speakers for whom no such barrier exists.



Nicole Kidman makes interpreting cool


When speaking through an interpreter, people should continue to speak directly to each other.  The interpreter serves merely as a mouthpiece. Interviews and conversations should flow as if the interviewer/judge, lawyer(s), and the asylum applicant are the only ones participating. Experienced interpreters know to use only the third person when referring to themselves.


In court, it is the job of the interpreter to interpret the questions asked into the alien's language and interpret the answers into English.  At an interview, the interpreter will likewise interpret all questions and answers given.


Some interpreters are better than others and it's necessary that both lawyers and clients learn how to best use an interpreter. Here are some tips to keep in mind:


1. Before the interview, the asylum seeker and interpreter should talk to each other to make certain that they speak the same dialect and/or understand each other.


2. Try to speak in short, very clear sentences. This will help because it can be difficult for an interpreter to accurately interpret more than a couple of sentences at a time.  


3. Look at and speak directly to the person to whom you are responding. Do not address the interpreter.


4. If you do not understand the interpreter, notify the judge/interviewing officer immediately.


5. Remember that the interpreter must keep all the information he/she learns during the interview/hearing confidential and may not share it with anyone. 


One should bear in mind that when an asylum-applicant goes before a judge, it is the court that will be make an interpreter available. However, asylum applicants must provide their own interpreter when interviewing before USCIS or the Asylum Office.  When hiring one's own interpreter, one should take into account that a person related to the asylum-seeker may not interpret for them. It is better to have a neutral/disinterested party. The interpreter must take his/her government issued ID and be prepared to stay the entire duration of the interview. Sometimes, appointments are delayed and all parties should be prepared for long waits. 


By taking all the above factors into consideration, the asylum interview/hearing can be more manageable when working with an interpreter.

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    *People are always telling you what to do, but what's right for them may not be right for you.
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