• Description

The lack of adequate interpretation and translation services in U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) proceedings can have devastating consequences for asylum-seekers. Yet under U.S. law, asylum-seekers with limited English proficiency (LEP) have a right to an interpreter and to translated materials while they navigate the asylum system. For more than 20 years, the federal government has required all federal agencies—including those that regularly come into contact with migrants and asylum-seekers—to provide meaningful language access to individuals with LEP. But the increasing diversity of languages spoken by migrants and asylum-seekers, a shortage of interpreters, and a lack of translated materials, among other factors, have led to a significant failure of the asylum system to ensure that everyone has access to information in a language they understand.

This report is presented in four sections. The first section highlights the diversity of the languages spoken by migrants and asylum-seekers and describes how the arrival of more non-English speakers poses a new set of challenges to language access needs in the asylum system. The second section outlines the major challenges government agencies that regularly come into contact with migrants and asylum-seekers face in ensuring language access. The third section lays out the various ways in which the Biden administration has prioritized language access since taking office. Finally, the fourth section makes agency-specific recommendations that would allow DHS and DOJ to overcome challenges and ensure meaningful language access at every step of the asylum process. These agencies must implement solutions to protect asylum-seekers' right to due process.

Improving Language Access in the U.S. Asylum System