Friday, July 11, 2008

An Interpreter Speaking Up for Migrants

In 23 years as a certified Spanish interpreter for federal courts, Erik Camayd-Freixas has spoken up in criminal trials many times, but the words he uttered were rarely his own. Then he was summoned here by court officials to translate in the hearings for nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers arrested in a raid on May 12 at a meatpacking plant. Since then, Mr. Camayd-Freixas, a professor of Spanish at Florida International University, has taken the unusual step of breaking the code of confidentiality among legal interpreters about their work.

His conscience made him break out from the shell of impartiality.

He said defense lawyers had little time or privacy to meet with their court-assigned clients in the first hectic days after the raid. Most of the Guatemalans could not read or write, he said. Most did not understand that they were in criminal court.

And the legal system seems in a hurry to criminalize these people. Illegal? Undocumented, yes. Yet all they want to do is work, and will take jobs no one else will take.

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