Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

Breaking Role to Serve Justice

July 11th, 2008

“One could feel the moral fabric of society coming apart beneath it all.”

I will be interested to know how things unfold for Professor/Interpreter Eric Camayd-Freixas, “Immigrant of the Day“, for whistle-blowing on an oppressive criminal prosecution against agricultural migrant workers. My curiosity regards him as an individual, interpreting as a profession, and the complicated ways institutional meanings are made among persons interacting with each other through various languages.
The questions they asked showed they did not understand what was going on,” Professor Camayd-Freixas said in an interview for the NYTimes. The video accompanying the printed text details some of the evidence by which the defendants (read, human beings) were denied voice.
The detailed disclosure by Professor Camayd-Freixis struck a chord with Helly, who describes “working within the Hong Kong legal system to achieve justice for domestic workers. Although there are legal processes in place that should protect migrants as well as citizens, in reality, the protection of the law is far weaker when applied to migrant populations.” This is also the case for the American Deaf Community (who are domestic citizens). Interviews (unpublished, 2005) with Turkish immigrants in Germany attest to a similar phenomenon, there. I am also reminded of the Ukrainian interpreter who broke role during a television newscast to inform the deaf public about a political coup.
“Interpreters, just like judges and attorneys, have an obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the process,” [Isabel Framer, a certified legal interpreter from Ohio who is chairwoman of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators] said (NY Times article). “But they don’t check their ethical standards at the door.” Indeed, we do not, however, pressure to conform to the dictates of established professional conduct is both subtle and overt: interpreters (at their/our respective level of labor) are also subjected to institutional “injustices against those simply trying to work and survive.” Notice the language used to position Professor Camayd-Freixas’ actions: An interpreter crosses a line and sheds light, he takes “a brave stand” – positioned in the face of or against an incredible legal onslaught, he “has taken a risk.”

“Apprehending people who are in the country illegally is one thing but to corner these same people to force them into criminalizing themselves so that it can be publicized that these people are a threat to national security is beneath the integrity of this country.” Latina Lista

Voices from a Raid is a video featuring first-hand accounts (in Spanish, with English subtitling) from a different raid earlier this year. The video opens with an excerpt from a speech by Barack Obama about the necessity for all Americans to participate in creative solutions to the dilemma of illegal immigrants. “It’s a difficult task to be an Interpreter, to have to bite your tongue and not speak out, to attempt to right a wrong, especially when it involves the civil or human rights,” writes Tony Herrera, predicting that an argument will be developed that the proper, ethical choice would have been for Professor Camayd-Freixas to recuse himself. The first blogpost about this story is titled, Sign Here or Starve: The Truth About Postville, Iowa – a direct comment on the coercive tactic of gaining guilty pleas in this case, but also reminiscent of the professional line interpreters are demanded to tread: witness only, reveal naught! “What, asks Evelyn of the Hispanic Business Forum, and I agree we need to explore deeply, “is the purpose of laws?”

I am intrigued that the text of the NY Times story by Julia Preston has been posted to a Marxist listserv: “Translator: Guatemalan meat-packers were railroaded into prison.” Not only academics, also law professors are following the unfolding. This matter of making a decision on the basis of non/un-understanding is serious – especially at the level of law – whether one is creating policy or implementing it.

Of course I have my own project in mind.

Another first-person account was posted at la vida:

Several sources seem to be post the text of Professor Camayd-Freixis full account, without adding analysis or commentary, such as ALIPAC.net.

1 Comment

Categories: history, Interpreting
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One Response to “Breaking Role to Serve Justice”

  1. Steph says:

    A Sunday editorial, The Shame of Postville, Iowa, from the NY Times decries the administration for exaggerating charges against illegal immigrants.

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