Language Access in Immigrant Communities during COVID-19 Pandemic

I have already written on the disconnect of healthcare workers and interpreters when patients with limited English proficiency are treated when they enter the hospital in dire need of assistance.  This is somewhat the same in immigrant communities and in immigration shelters.

This is true in particular; the latter those are still in process of getting their immigration hearing and are still in limbo on what they are allowed and not to do.  Because of this pandemic, authorities have stopped the  search operations  in healthcare facilities, doctor offices or near hospitals because they do stress as attorneys as well , during Covid -19  seeking medical care as an undocumented immigrant will not go against the  ‘public charge “rule.

However, when it comes to language access for these communities and the undocumented alike, the nonprofits that serve the needs of these communities do not have a centralized place where they can get information and most of the information supplied is in English.

In addition, when it comes to interpretation resources, most of them that arrive are fluent in indigenous languages spoken in Guatemala not necessarily Spanish.

During this pandemic they feel lost and confused about services and information about  the disease and we already know that by federal law, language access is supposed to be provided.  However, states and local governments also have a say as to how far they can and will comply with the federal law.

Clearly everything boils down to economics and money, although the service is needed and  highly so, state governments put language access and interpretation services in the back burner because there are far more pressing issues where that money can be allocated therefore minimizing the ability to acquire these services.  When they do supply it, they use over-the phone interpretation where the cost is less but have an available supply of interpreters and languages.


However, from a translation and interpreters point of view, when an interpreter works OPI they are paid by minute and the minutes they are on the phone with the speaker only.  Wait times are not paid and this leaves very little incentive for the interpreter, who to be qualified as a certified interpreter has to pass rigorous and expensive certification to be able to work as a medical interpreter.

All of this as communities suffers the inability to get informed, get help and assistance whenever it is available to them.  However, understanding the need, there is also large reasons for the disconnect here.  There are companies that do not value translation as a profession it seems and they all want you to volunteer your services.  Why?  I understand that most people that help these immigrants are nonprofit organizations but although we love the craft, we also life of our craft and hence we do have to refuse their absurd request of per minute interpretation or worse yet, volunteer.  I have volunteered my time but it is time they valued our profession as much as we do.


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