NAJIT letter to the Texas Senate Regarding Interpreting Issue on June 16
Last month I wrote about the Senate hearing in Texas where a Mexican witness attempted to testify through a volunteer interpreter and was admonished by a senator for doing so in Spanish because he had been in the U.S. for several years. The witness alleged that he was doing so because he had never given testimony in a legal procedure and did not feel comfortable doing so in his second language. To compound the matter, although there are several certified Spanish<>English interpreters in Austin, a “volunteer” interpreter was used and his credentials were never questioned. In my view, although I am all for learning English if you live in the U.S.A., I also believe that proper language access should be provided in matters of import. It is too early to know if we will have a response from the senate. Thus far, one of the associations lobbying in this matter has posted our letter on their site at http://reformimmigrationfortexas.org/1/2011/speak-english-an-open-letter-to-texas-lawmakers/
On a related event, also in Texas, I am adding my request that everyone send their comments regarding new legislation to effectively reduce the level of interpreter proficiency needed to pass the state certification. Read below for details from a post copied from the NAJIT listserv by colleague Gloria Keller. Under her post you can click to read the NAJIT letter to the Senate regarding the June hearing. NAJIT will also be responding to the new legislation referred to here.
HB 4445 (two levels of interpreters) will go into effect on September 1, 2011.
On June 24th, the Licensed Court Interpreter (LCI) Advisory Board met in Austin at the offices of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). On the agenda was the “discussion and possible recommendation on proposed rules at 16 Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 80; Sections 80.10, 80.20, 80.22, 80.25, and 80.80 relating to changes in the Licensed Court Interpreter industry resulting from the passage of HB 4445 from the 81st Legislative session.” HB 4445’s original intent was to lower the passing rate of the interpreter exam as offered by Texas so that municipal court staff could pass and serve as interpreters, in order to save the municipal courts thousands of dollars. HB 4445 will create a two tiered system of court interpreters; “master” for those that will be allowed to interpret in courts of record and “basic” for those who can interpret in courts not of record. The meeting may be accessed at TDLR’s page: http://www.license.state.tx.us/court/lciboard.htm
Interpreters, who want to become a Licensed Court Interpreter in Texas, take and pass a Consortium exam. During the meeting, those interested and present recommended that the “basic” designation remain at the existing oral passing rate as recommended by the Consortium; 80% for the written and 70% for the oral. It was also suggested that the oral passing rate of the “master” designation be raised to 80%, and that “basic” interpreters eventually move up to a “master” level after a certain period. There was also a push to require a two day orientation for would-be LCIs.
After much discussion and despite logical viewpoints and admonitions offered by those present, to not lower the level for the “basic” designation, the LCI Advisory Board, under pressure from the Presiding Officer, Ann Moore, an attorney from McAllen, TX, overwhelmingly voted to lower the passage rate on the oral exam for the “basic” level to 60%. Only one Advisory Board member, Luis Garcia, the Chair of the Texas Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, voted against this. The “master” designation will remain at the 70% rate, and all present LCIs will be grandfathered into the “master” designation. The passing rate for the written portion of the exam will remain at 80%. There will not be any requirements that “basic” LCIs do anything to eventually move up into a “master” level. Please remember that these are only recommendations at this time.
These recommendations will be published in the July 1st issue of the Texas Register (http://www.sos.state.tx.us/texreg/), where they will be available for public comment for 30 days. During that 30 day period any individual or group will be able to express their thoughts for or against these recommendations. We highly encourage anyone with an interest in the legal community, especially those representative of LEPs, to express their opinions during these 30 days. Comments would especially be helpful, from other states in which there is a multiple tier system in place for court interpreters. Please pass this on.