By Caleb Hutton
BELLINGHAM — The public is invited to a discussion of a new federal policy that means U.S. border agents will no longer serve as interpreters for local police.
A community forum on the issue will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, at St. Luke’s educational center, 3333 Squalicum Parkway.
Local law enforcement used to be able to call U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers if they needed an interpreter. The Department of Homeland Security changed its policy in November after immigration activists said the old way eventually led border agents to ask questions about immigration status. So now, when police call U.S. border agents for an interpreter, they’re referred to list of private interpreters.
(Here’s the memorandum that effectively changed the federal agency’s stance on interpreting for local law enforcement.)
At the Thursday meeting, the public can pose questions about the new policy to officials from the Department of Homeland Security.
Rosalinda Guillen, an activist for immigration reform, summed up the point of the meeting:
This is a unique opportunity to give your voice on how the practice of calling Border Patrol for interpretative services has impacted our communities in Whatcom and Skagit County. We will also learn how our counties will be impacted by this ruling.
And here’s the press release from the feds.
The Community Relations Service (CRS) will be facilitating dialogue and the community will be hosting a community engagement listening session for the US Department of Homeland Security to address questions relating to language assistance and the role of DHS components and local law enforcement in those efforts. Specifically, there will be a brief discussion regarding a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policy memorandum which clarifies the Department’s position on providing language assistance to other law enforcement organizations. (…) Officials from DHS in Washington, DC, will be present to listen to current experiences relating to language assistance and access.