CBP Revives Bad Idea to Use Border Patrol Agents as Interpreters for Local Law Enforcement

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Policy was scrapped in 2012 because it eroded community trust and made everybody less safe

Washington D.C./Northern and Southern Border Regions - Today, border advocacy groups across the United States stand firm against the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol's (CBP) perplexing decision to reintroduce the so-called Interpretation Assistance policy.

Essentially, this policy has Border Patrol agents interpreting one minute for police, and the next minute asking people for their papers. A legitimate fear of deportation will  result in less victims and witnesses contacting police for help; making everybody less safe.

The policy had been discontinued in 2012 by Commissioner David Aguilar, and for a good reason: The policy was a bad idea then, and is a bad idea now.

According to a 2012 report, the policy created a deep mistrust between immigrant communities and law enforcement, lead to discriminatory practices, and wasted taxpayer dollars. An agency that lacks transparency and accountability should not be given the additional authority of working with local communities in this matter. Period.

<<Click here to see the facts surrounding this policy>>

In a letter signed by more than 140 non-governmental organizations, border advocates express disappointment with Commissioner Kerlikowske's decision to reintroduce this policy.

Vicki Gaubeca, Co-Chair of the Southern Border Communities Coalition states the following:

"As a nation, our values and our laws recognize that everyone should feel safe calling the police for help. Reintroducing this policy is a bad idea, and Commissioner Kerlikowske should know better. A call for help is not a call for deportation. Allowing Border Patrol agents to act as interpreters erodes community trust and public safety in border communities. Furthermore this reversal encourages more “show me your papers” policing that offends fairness and equity."

Rich Stolz, Director of One America states the following:

"Using Border Patrol agents as interpreters for local law enforcement violates basic due process. Other law enforcement agencies have called the practice discriminatory 'on its face'. The practice encourages racial profiling; too often interpretation has been used as a pretense to target community members based on their ethnicity and perceived legal status.  Using Border Patrol agents as interpreters further undermines trust in law enforcement, rendering local police less effective in protecting all residents.   

CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske confounds common sense by signaling he may overrule his agency's policy discouraging this practice. We urge the Commissioner to reconsider and focus his efforts on professionalizing his agency rather than reviving discredited law enforcement practices."

Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition states the following:

"We are appalled and frustrated by this sudden reversal of hard-won policy by Customs and Border Protection. When Border Patrol agents become involved in the day-to-day operations of local and state law enforcement, immigrants who are justifiably fearful of an agency with a long history of problematic behavior become less likely to report crime or cooperate with investigations, making us all less safe. We call on CBP to honor the transparency and open dialogue it has claimed to want with us by halting the implementation of this new policy until there is opportunity for meaningful conversation and feedback."

Background

The 2012 policy on interpretation assistance, which was put in place by then-acting Commissioner David Aguilar, restricted officers and agents from serving as interpreters for state or local law enforcement agencies. This policy was implemented after a substantial period of engagement with community and organizational stakeholders who expressed concern over the slippery slope between interpretation and asking for papers and concern about the erosion of trust in police who used Border Patrol interpreters. 

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