In December 2012, then acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) David Aguilar had announced a policy restricting his agencies’ officers and agents from acting as interpreters for state or local law enforcement agencies—which had become a common practice along the northern and southern borders. However, just last month, current CBP Commissioner, Gil Kerlikowske reversed course and authorized CBP Agents to again act as interpreters for state and local police despite significant civil rights concerns associated with that practice.
Prior to December 2012, border communities throughout the country were seeing the use of Border Patrol agents as interpreters. Some local agencies contacting Border Patrol did not do so simply for their language skills, but to trigger immigration enforcement actions against the community members involved. The extent and problematic nature of this practice was extensively documented in a 2012 report by Lisa Graybill, Border Patrol Agents as Interpreters Along the Northern Border: Unwise Policy, Illegal Practice.