Asylum seekers must again bring their own interpreter to USCIS interviews

Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2023 - 7:05am
Updated: Wednesday, September 13, 2023 - 7:43am
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.29 MB)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is going back to the way the agency did asylum interviews before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting today, applicants have to bring their own interpreter to the crucial meeting.

It’s expensive to hire a quality interpreter. The job is really hard to do, said Phoenix attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado.

“Oftentimes I’ve been in interviews pre-pandemic where someone shows up with a friend and they have no idea how to interpret," Ybarra Maldonado said.

He also said the process went more smoothly when the government contracted interpreters telephonically.

“I think they are probably getting a big bill from all of these interviews that they’re doing, and they’re trying to figure out a way to stop paying that bill," Ybarra Maldonado said.

Certification no longer required

The type of asylum seeker in question is not facing deportation. But federal officials warn that going to the interview without an able interpreter can lead them there.

Ybarra Maldonado said now the interpreter’s proof of fluency is based on their word.

“And there is no guarantee or assurance that during the process that person is accurately translating, as we would get from someone who is a certified interpreter," Ybarra Maldonado said.

An interpreter at a USCIS interview must be an adult who is not the applicant's lawyer or a witness testifying on their behalf. The interpreter can't be another asylum applicant or an official from the government of the country fled by the person being interviewed.  

More stories from KJZZ