New York’s Dire Need for Indigenous Interpreters

The city is home to a panoply of indigenous languages – and their countless variants – with origins in Latin America: K’iche’ and Mam from Guatemala; Garifuna from Honduras, Belize and also Guatemala; Kichwa from Ecuador; and Mixtec and Nahuatl from Mexico, among various others. Many of their speakers are fluent in neither English nor Spanish, but for a long time, their need for interpretation services has gone largely unnoticed.


The need for interpreters is perhaps most palpable when it comes to immigration cases, which often involve building asylum claims that require a particularly high standard of proof. “In most cases we’re filing hundreds and hundreds of pages before the court to prove to the judge that this person’s story is real, that they’re believable, that they are credible,” said Molly Lauterback, a senior staff attorney at the public defense office Brooklyn Defender Services.

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