Role of Languages in Immigration Law
By Melia Yanat, Lingolet Team
Lingolet went to meet Mario Ramos, one of the best immigration lawyers in the United States. He has been practicing for more than thirty-four years (1987), runs his law firm, and has testified several times on amnesty, immigration, and human rights before the United States Congress. He was recognized as Lawyer of the Year by the American Immigration Lawyer Association (AILA) in 2009.
Mario Ramos agreed to speak to us about the importance of translation and interpretation in the field of immigration.
Q. We assume that it is very common to have problems with communicating in the field of immigration?
MR: Indeed, the need for translation is permanent all day long. All employees must be fluently bilingual to speak, read and write legal-quality English and Spanish. That’s why most non-Latino lawyers stay away from immigration law.
Large U.S. law firms avoid typically working in the immigration field because of a lack of cultural knowledge. As a result, they rarely hire translators.
Q. Your staff is bilingual. So where is the difficulty then?
MR : The challenge is to discover hidden information. Clients rarely give complete information or they mislead (such as prior legal decisions, evictions, arrests, etc.), so the first meeting is always face-to-face. I prefer to see the client so I can understand what is really going on. Clients also want to see a lawyer in person.
The difficulty is that not all lawyers have the time, ability, or desire to do so. So many clients, who cannot afford a good lawyer, make mistakes that can be avoided.
Q. Do you think that all law students should be fluent in Spanish in order to practice?
MR : I estimate that 85% of my clients speak Spanish. 10% are from Ahmedabad, India, and speak Gujarati. Another 5% are from the territories of the former USSR and speak Russian.
Clients from Guatemala and other Central American countries are often from indigenous populations and speak either dialects or indigenous languages.
Q . Do you think the translation and interpretation services that exist are sufficient?
Let's say we make do with what we have. For non-Spanish clients, translation is usually done with family, friends, or the community. Family translators are usually bilingual children, sometimes as young as seven years old. It can be a bit amusing to watch a federal court judge ask questions to a seven-year-old child.
Other translators are part of the client's circle, such as work, church, etc. Immigrant associations also often provide interpreters who are more or less qualified.
The client brings his translator. They usually do this for free (friends, family, or community associations), but some people charge for the service. Sometimes the translator charges both sides, the client and the lawyer (laughs). We can expect everything.
So no, the current language services aren’t enough, there is more demand than available interpreters.
Q. Lingolet is a startup that offers qualified interpreters on demand, by call or video. Do you think we can make a difference?
MR: Of course, we legal professionals are used to these administrative problems, and so are the magistrates, so we have been content to do the best we can, but we are very far from a quality interpreting service. For many years, the bad habit of "trying to do well" has clung to our profession. I think it is urgent to start doing better than trying.
Q. Thank you Mario Ramos for this interview,
Thanks to Mario Ramos, we are even more determined to bring our solution to all sectors. Legal and judicial institutions in the United States face many challenges.
Language should no longer be one of them.
In 2020, technological solutions have emerged to ensure remote access to interpreting. Lingolet is the first to offer an on-demand solution with more than 4000 interpreters and a complete management platform for administrators.
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