When Silence is Golden: Interpreters and Asylum
This blog entry is by ace reporter Maria Raquel McFadden. Ms. McFadden is also a freelance business, legal, and immigration interpreter with 10 years experience. She has interpreted in various forums including courts, immigration interviews, depositions, and business meetings. Ms. McFadden is registered with the State of Maryland and can be reached at: Office: 202-709-3602 or Cell: 202-360-2736; email@example.com
Asylum seekers are often fraught with misgivings and anxiety about providing information that they feel might make them victims of reprisals should their claim be denied. It is important that besides being informed of attorney-client confidentiality, asylum seekers be made aware that the entirety of the asylum process is protected by confidentiality laws and regulations. Interpreters are not only bound by these rules but also by their cannon of ethics and standards, which also requires confidentiality.
Like many other professionals, interpreters must follow certain standards of practice while on the job. Despite the fact that the number and order of cannons in the interpreters’ “Code of Ethics” can vary a bit among accrediting bodies and hiring agencies, a perennial tenet is the one of confidentiality.
Though once in a while a very special and extraordinary circumstance might occur that can override the principle of confidentiality (such being told directly the whereabouts of a currently kidnapped victim by a non-English or limited English speaker ), all must bear in mind that this cannon is one of the foremost importance.
Interpreters often have access to protected, restricted, private and/or sensitive information. The oath taken by professional interpreters to adhere to confidentiality assures asylum seekers and all connected to the case (including witnesses) that the facts and circumstances they share with the private bar attorneys, immigration judge or immigration officers, and other U.S. government personnel will not be divulged by the interpreter to an outside party.
No matter whether the process is an asylum hearing, a credible fear or reasonable fear determination hearing, an interpreter may not share any information he/she has learned (whether orally or in writing) before, during or after the proceeding.
From time to time, for educational purposes, interpreters do and should share language issues that arise. However, it is important they never share any identifying information which can include the name of the asylum seekers, the judge, officer, or representing attorney.
Frequently during the process (at interviews at the asylum office or during attorney-client meetings for example), non-professional “interpreters” are used. Attorneys and asylum officers should remind those interpreters of their duties in respect to confidentiality.
When an asylum seeker understands the importance that the court, USCIS, and attorneys place on confidentiality, asylum seekers can be reassured and thus feel more comfortable disclosing all the details of their case, making the process work better for all involved.