Everybody’s an Interpreter; Further Apropos to the Harris Outburst
I was very intrigued by the events as they unfolded at the hearing, the identity of the “mystery” interpreter, how he came to be there, his background, etc. A NAJIT colleague from Texas posted the Texas Senate Accessibility page on another forum and I started by calling the numbers there to ask whether anyone from the public-at-large had called to secure an interpreter for the hearing in question. I spoke to Scott, a Senate Coordinator, at the number designated on the page to schedule interpreters. He told me that they hardly ever receive any requests for spoken language interpreters, that occasionally they receive a request for an ASL interpreter and that no one had called for this matter. I asked him what the procedure and qualifications were for hiring the former and he became very flustered and told me I would have to call the Secretary of the Senate, Patsy Spaw, who would be better able to answer my questions. I called and left a message with my question, in my capacity as director of NAJIT, asking to be called back. That was three days ago.
In the meantime, I called RITA (Reform Immigration Texas Alliance) one of the groups that the witness, Antolin Aguirre, was affiliated with when he went to testify before the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. I inquired and was told the identity of the “interpreter” and have subsequently interviewed him.
His name is Loren Campos. He is a bilingual young man, 22 years old, born in Monterey, Mexico who entered the U.S. illegally when he was 11 years old and has applied for permanent resident status through his sister who is a U.S. citizen by virtue of having married an American. That application was filed in 2003, 8 years ago, and it typically takes anywhere from 10-15 years to be processed. In the meantime, Mr. Campos is soon to graduate as a civil engineer from the University of Texas at Austin.
I asked Mr. Campos how he came to be the interpreter at the hearing and he told me that in his freshman year he came across a group called the University Leadership Initiative that was advocating for the Dream Act, proposed federal legislation to provide an 11 year pathway to citizenship for students 16 years or younger when they arrived in this country. Its mission struck a chord with him and he joined the group. He attended this senate hearing to become informed about SB9 on behalf of the group. While there, the coordinator for RITA, Adriana Cadena, asked if anyone would volunteer to interpret for several witnesses and Loren agreed. He told me that he is not involved with RITA, that he had never met the witness and that he was not prepped at all as to what would be discussed. It all happened on the spur of the moment. It was the first time he had ever “translated” outside of a casual conversation. (I was not able to resist the pedantic impulse to explain the difference between a translator and an interpreter and to explain that when acting as an interpreter, one cannot answer questions on behalf of the witness, which he did).
This morning I came across a widely differing account of the event than those which we have been reading, by a Ms. Adryana Boyne. She also alleges to be an interpreter. I will let you all be the judge of that.
I asked Loren Campos whether he felt that Senator Harris’s remarks had been maligned by the press. He told me that it was apparent to all, or I guess almost all, that the Senator was “very frustrated and upset” that some people elected to testify in Spanish. Apparently there had been two women before Mr. Aguirre, that he started to question in the same way but then held back. It seems that Mr. Aguirre was the straw that broke the camel’s back although two more witnesses testified in Spanish after him, also through Mr. Campos, without eliciting any comments.
The moral of the story is that as interpreters we have a long row to hoe to make our elected officials, the courts and other stakeholders aware of the value that as professionals we bring to the table as well as the duty incumbent upon certain stakeholders to provide the services of a certified interpreter.