Friday, May 27, 2011

Stronger Advocacy for Language Access in the Courts

The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) to Provide a Tool for Advocates
The growing recognition of the need for quality language services for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals has resulted in a widespread call for stronger advocacy, and more advocates, for the provision of quality services. Agencies, associations, groups, and individuals, including judicial and healthcare interpreters, are said to be advocates for the provision of quality language services to LEP persons.  But what does it mean to be an advocate? How do we go about it? To do advocacy, the best of intentions are very noble, but they fall short if it they are not backed by a good knowledge of the facts underlying a specific issue – the provision of quality language services in this case.  Advocates need the capacity to make a compelling case for quality services for LEP individuals by providing examples of the negative effects when they are not available. Likewise, advocates need to cite the positive outcomes that implementation of stronger policies will produce.  All this must be targeted to the interests and needs of the various constituencies involved in the decisions that affect services for LEP individuals.
As indicated in previous postings, much has been done to provide services of various kinds to Limited English Proficient individuals in the courts, and similar progress has been made in health care centers and the community at large.  During its 2011 Annual Conference, held in Long Beach (California), NAJIT announced that it would shortly make available on its website a document providing information on the who, what, where, why, and how of judicial interpreting in the US.  In explaining the reasons why the services of a qualified interpreter should be offered in legal proceedings, NAJIT’s document will include landmark cases, like the U.S. ex rel Negrón v. New York 434 F2d 386 (1970), linking language access with constitutional rights.  The document will also include information on the role and qualifications of judicial interpreters, and discuss the cost of judicial interpreting – including the social and monetary cost of NOT providing quality interpreting services to LEP individuals. 
With this document, that is expected to be available on the Association´s website within the next few days, NAJIT hopes to provide in a single place information that has until now been scattered and hard to find. Of course, effective advocacy requires specific skills and strategies, and preparing advocates could be an area an association like NAJIT can and should tackle.
In times where a great number of entities and individuals still resist complying with laws, rulings, and executive orders regarding language access for LEP individuals, advocates need good tools to make a strong and compelling case regarding the provision of quality language. NAJIT’s new document is an excellent place to look. 

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