Featured Podcast: And Justice for Some -- Lost Without Translation

A previous post on Ex Libris Juris called attention to the need for qualified interpreters in U.S. courts. (Texas outlines its policies on language access in the courts on the Texas Judicial Branch website.) This issue is getting more attention as the shortage of licensed court interpreters, particularly those who speak an indigenous language, is becoming more of a concern. The State Bar of Texas Access to Justice Commission recently reported on the issue and included legislative history to explain the development of laws that provide translation services for people with Limited English Proficiency. Last week's episode of the Reveal podcast, a project of The Center for Investigative Reporting, covered the story in a program called And Justice for Some. This program details the courtroom experience of an Alabama mother who speaks Mixteco, a language spoken by 750,000 people in Mexico, but by precious few in the United States, especially in U.S. courtrooms. The implications of not having access to a qualified interpreter are great. This podcast explores these implications and calls for better access to justice in U.S. courts, especially with respect to translation services for foreign language speakers.

I-9 Compliance and the New "Smart" Form

Under the Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1986, all U.S. employers must verify the identity and eligibility of each new person hired. Form I-9 must be submitted for citizens and noncitizens alike, and the penalties for not completing this form properly can be substantial.

As of August 1, 2016, penalties have increased along with the possibility of facing an audit. In light of these changes, employers are well-advised to review their I-9 processes and implement best practices for ensuring compliance with the law. 

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is introducing a new "smart" version of Form I-9, which is designed to enhance the quality, utility, clarity, and accuracy of the information collected. The new collection process will be automated, allowing respondents to submit data electronically.

The Harris County Law Library has a number of immigration law resources, which we are featuring on our blog and in the library throughout the month of October. One such resource is the Immigration Employment Compliance Handbook 2016-2017 Edition, a Thomson Reuters publication in the Immigration Law Library series. At the time of publication, the proposed "smart" PDF version of Form I-9 was still under review. The USCIS has been accepting public comments on the draft and is now awaiting approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The new form is to be released on or before November 22, 2016, but employers may continue to use the 03/08/2013 edition of the form until January 21, 2017. 

For a good discussion of the many changes to the I-9 form as well as advice about what employers need to know, visit Law360, and as always, the Law Library staff are available to help you locate additional resources, such as I-9 Central, and to ensure that you keep current with changes in the law. 

Immigration Law Resource Month

In October, we at the Harris County Law Library are continuing to highlight our collection of immigration law resources. Throughout the month, we will feature materials, in the library an online, to assist you in conducting research and learning about immigration law in the United States.

Several new immigration law resources are now on our shelves, including the 15th edition of Kurzban's Immigration Law Sourcebook, and the 17th edition of U.S. Immigration Made Easy, published by Nolo Press. On Westlaw, you can access the latest immigration news and analysis, as well as immigration law treatises, and official immigration forms. Lexis provides additional access to popular immigration titles, including Benders Immigration Law Bulletin and Benders Immigration Case Reporter. Both Westlaw and Lexis can be accessed on our computers in the Law Library.

These titles are just a few of the immigration law items in our collection. Additional resources will be featured throughout the month in the Law Library and on our blog.

Celebrating Citizenship, Immigrants, and the Constitution

National Welcoming Week (September 16-25, 2016) 

Today, September 16th, marks the beginning of National Welcoming Week when we as a nation honor the contributions of immigrants and refugees, and we highlight efforts across the country to build stronger, more welcoming communities. Throughout the week, the White House will feature the voices of courageous and resilient individuals who have entered the United States in search of new beginnings, a nice complement to Constituition and Citizenship Day, which is celebrated annually on September 17th. This national day of observance, when we commemorate the formation and signing of our United States Constitution (1787), and recognize those who have attained the status of American citizenship, is a nearly 65-year tradition. Visit The Law Library of Congress website to learn more.

Interpreters in the Courts, or Do you Speak Q’anjob’al?

Interpreters in the Courts: The shortage of qualified interpreters in U.S. Courts is an issue of increasing concern.

Immigration Law Resource Month at the Harris County Law Library runs through the end of September. Until then, we will highlight immigration stories, issues, trends, and developments in the law. The lack of qualified interpreters in U.S. Courts is one such topic, which we address briefly in today's post. 

In recent weeks, several news outlets have reported on the growing need for qualified interpreters in U.S. Courts. Throughout the justice system, the shortage of those who are fluent in a second language is a problem of increasing concern. It is also a matter of equal rights, as those with Limited English Proficiency cannot engage with the legal system on an even footing. The consequences can be dire: a simple traffic offense may be misconstrued as a rape charge; an asylum-seeker facing death threats in her native Guatemala may be deported; or the misunderstanding of one’s Miranda rights may lead to self-incrimination and a denial of justice

The United States is one of the largest Spanish-speaking countries in the world, second only to Mexico, so the need for Spanish-language interpreters is especially great. In border states, which are common points of entry for immigrants from Central America, officials have identified another trend -- increasing numbers of immigrants who speak languages indigenous to their countries of origin. In many cases, finding translators for the regional languages of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador is next to impossible, and justice cannot be served.

In 2014, Immigration and Customs Enforcement published a Language Access Plan, stating its commitment to serve individuals with Limited English Proficiency. Recognizing the need for interpreters who speak indigenous languages is a positive step, but actually locating third-party translators for these languages is a challenge they are still trying to meet. 


Latest and Greatest - U.S. Immigration Made Easy

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   U.S. Immigration Made Easy  BY Ilona Bray, J.D.  Published by Nolo (17th Edition, 2015)  KF 4819.85 .B72 2015

U.S. Immigration Made Easy

BY Ilona Bray, J.D.

Published by Nolo (17th Edition, 2015)

KF 4819.85 .B72 2015

Did you know the Harris County Law Library has a self-help collection full of easy to understand resources that help self-represented litigants learn about the law? Well, we do, and it features materials published by Nolo, the Houston Bar Association and Texas Young Lawyers Association.

In connection with Immigration Law Resource month, we are proud to feature U.S. Immigration Made Easy, now in its 17th edition from Nolo. This book helps you navigate through the immigration process from staying legally in the U.S. to obtaining a green card or visa. There are chapters that discuss the ways of getting a green card, such as through a family member already residing in the U.S., through a U.S. citizen fiancée, through employment, as an investor, or as an asylum seeker or refugee.

U.S. Immigration Made Easy also explains the visa process and the various types of visas available to non-immigrants and those looking to remain temporarily in the country. This edition also contains new information about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and its eligibility requirements.

If you want to know more about U.S. immigration laws for yourself or you are a new attorney or paralegal who wants to learn more about an unfamiliar area of law, take a look at U.S. Immigration Made Easy.