Interpreters or?

When we find ourselves under duress we might not notice the obvious. One of my patients brought an interesting story which would have been more interesting if it wasn’t because someone else had shared a similar experience in recent weeks. It seems that this is becoming a pattern of behavior in some judicial circuits in Georgia and it only seems fair that our immigrant community becomes better informed.

Some court interpreters are navigating the system in such a way that they are exerting undue power over their customers. In some cases, they even threaten their customers [usually immigrant misdemeanor criminal defendants] to use services for which the interpreter receives an additional payment [a referral fee].

This particular Court Interpreter insisted that my patient [a patient who had been under my care prior to meeting the Court Interpreter] be clinically evaluated by someone she was strongly recommending for the job. The evaluator she was recommending was not bilingual; thus, she was offering her services as an Interpreter for the evaluation. In exchange for hiring them, my patient would receive a “no treatment” recommendation.

Regretfully for her, the offer was made to the wrong customer. My patient is an individual who is fully aware of his substance abuse disorder and who is truly committed to making the necessary changes in his life for his recovery. Yet, the Court Interpreter was persistent in giving him a way out of receiving the help he needed and wanted for “a fee.”

Obviously, Court Interpreters have great power and influence on an undocumented individual with language limitations; in this case, my patient was born in the United States but raised in his parent’s country. His limitations with the language are real but he had no fear in refusing to follow the recommendations of the Court Interpreter despite her promises of the outcome of the clinical evaluation; promises which later turned into threats … “te vas a arrepentir” … [you will regret it].

Thankfully, he was able to stand his ground and realize the unethical and inappropriate actions of the Court Interpreter and the clinical evaluator. However, these incidents are more common than we can imagine.

The moral of this story is that we must always be aware of our own moral compass and if a “proposal” appears to be unethical, dishonest or illegal, it most likely is.

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