September 24, 2020
Zeena Barazanji

Effective September 23, 2020 and through March 22, 2021, most asylum applicants will no longer be permitted to bring an interpreter to their interview and will now have to go forward with DHS-provided telephonic interpreters. The Asylum Office will provide telephonic interpretation for the following languages:

Akan, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bengali, Burmese, Cantonese, Creole/Haitian Creole, Farsi-Afghani/Dari, Farsi-Iranian, Foo Chow/Fuzhou, French, Georgian, Gujarati, Hindi, Hmong, Hungarian, Indonesia/Bahasa, Konjobal, Korean, Kurdish, Lingala, Mam, Mandarin, Nepali, Pashto/Pushtu, Portuguese, Punjabi, Quiche/K’iche, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhalese, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Tamil, Tigrinya, Turkish, Twi, Ukrainian, Urdu, Uzbek, or Vietnamese.

Applicants whose language of fluency is not included in this list must still bring their own interpreter to the interview.

DHS claims the new rule will allow for more interviews to be conducted as there will be more physical office space available since currently all parties (the interpreter, applicant, and officer) sit in separate offices for the interview.  It also claims to relieve asylum applicants of the financial burden of securing their own interpreters for the interviews. While the new rule may alleviate that burden for some asylum applicants, it may also create new burdens for others.

The use of DHS contract interpreters under the new rule will replace the practice of using contract monitors. Previously, asylum applicants would provide their own interpreter and DHS would call a contract interpreter who would serve as a monitor. The monitor’s role was to listen in on the interview to ensure accurate interpretation. Under the new rule, the DHS provided interpreter will not be monitored. This is an important change, especially when the attorney does not speak the language, as there is no oversight to ensure accurate interpretation. It is also important to note that many of the languages listed above include multiple dialects, and so while an applicant and DHS interpreter may speak the same language, they may utilize different phrases and vocabulary to describe important aspects of the case.  If you are in an interview and cannot fully understand the interpreter, or feel like the interpreter does not fully understand you, we recommend that you state that to the officer.  Furthermore, under the previous practice, if the asylum officer was unable to connect with a monitor for the interview, the interview would continue without the monitor. Under the new rule, if the asylum officer cannot connect with a contract interpreter, the interview will have to be rescheduled. DHS will not attribute the delay to the applicant, but it is unclear when DHS will reschedule the interviews and whether there are enough contract interpreters available to cover its needs.

If you are an asylum applicant and have questions about how this new rule may affect your case, please contact one of our attorneys.

The material contained in this alert does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

© 2023 Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. All rights reserved. Information may not be reproduced, displayed, modified, or distributed without the express prior written permission of Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.

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