Rachel Nolan, Assistant Professor at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, published a recent article in The New Yorker on the Translation Crisis at the U.S. Border.
From the text of the article:
Guatemala has a population of fifteen million people, forty per cent of them indigenous, according to the most recent census. In the past year, two hundred and fifty thousand Guatemalan migrants have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. At least half of them are Mayans, and many speak little or no Spanish. For migrants who speak Mayan languages, a grass group of interpreters is often their only hope for receiving asylum.
The U.S. government claims to provide proper translation at all points in the immigration process, but, in practice, it rarely offers Mayan-language translation at the border or in holding cells. Until just a few years ago, there was a tendency to treat Mayan languages as “dialects.” When Mayan-language asylum seekers can manage some Spanish, it is often not enough to navigate credible-fear interviews—in which migrants must explain why they are afraid of returning to their home countries.
Rachel Nolan is a historian of modern Latin America. Her research focuses on political violence, Central American civil wars, childhood and the family, historical memory, and U.S.-Latin American relations. She is currently completing a book manuscript on the history of international adoption from Guatemala. Her research has been funded by the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the ACLS/Mellon Foundation. Dr. Nolan holds a B.A. in History and Literature from Harvard University and a doctorate in Latin American and Caribbean History from New York University. Her dissertation won a Dean’s Outstanding Dissertation Award and NYU’s Outstanding Dissertation Award for the Humanities.