Sending Office: Honorable Marc A. Veasey
Sent By:
nicole.varner@mail.house.gov

Urge HHS to Provide Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Resources for Detainees

DEADLINE TUESDAY COB

 

Dear Colleague,

Last week in a Washington Post
article
, it was mentioned that there are a number of immigrants in detention centers who are non-Spanish speakers and have no access to staff or services offered in their native languages. This has left many adults and children without
the ability to communicate their needs to detention staff.

Fortunately for these detainees, volunteers from across the country have mobilized to offer their interpreting services to assist with their communication needs. Despite their selfless and gracious donation of their time and skills, these interpreters are
often times trained in a rush or lack the proper training to convey the nuances of legal and health care issues to staff in detention centers.  As a result, we are sending a letter to the HHS and DHS Secretaries asking for answers to the following questions:

1) What is being done to cultivate staff, healthcare and otherwise, with the linguistic and cultural aptitude to efficiently communicate with detained individuals?

2) What is being done to provide linguistically appropriate mental healthcare providers or interpreters who are trained to work with children who have been traumatized, either by family separations or during their journey to the United States? It is scientifically
proven that in situations such as these, children are at an increased risk of experiencing PTSD, anxiety, and depression among other mental health disorders.[1]

3) Finally, will there be linguistically and culturally competent individuals assisting with reuniting children and parents who have been separated?

Please find the text of the letter below.

Please join me to ensure that these individuals affected by this Administration’s family separation policy are provided with access to effective communication while detained. To sign on to this letter please contact Jazmin Vargas at
Jazmin.Vargas@mail.house.gov or x59897.

 

Sincerely,

Marc Veasey

Member of Congress

 

Dear Secretary Azar:

We write to express our concern for the children and adults who are currently detained as a result of the family separation policy enacted by this Administration. It has come to our attention that there are many indigenous people who are non-Spanish speakers
currently in your custody. Many of these languages such as Zapotec, a language from Oaxaca, Mexico and K’iche’, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala, as well as many other dialects, are rare and not widely known or studied outside of their linguistic and cultural
region. Despite the obscurity of these languages, there are still hundreds of thousands of individuals who only speak these languages. 

As a result, it is difficult to obtain solid metrics on whether the physical and mental well-being of these children and adults are being sufficiently met. Many children, who have served as translators for their parents, have now been separated, leaving
the parents without a means of communication. Conversely, there are children who are too young to have learned another language or only know their native language, and have been separated from their parents.

These detained children are now alone without any means to communicate with their caretakers – who they rely upon for survival. Currently, there are accounts of volunteers around the nation mobilizing to assist these individuals, but we are concerned they
may not be appropriately trained to assist in interpretation when communicating with healthcare professionals on behalf of detained persons.
[2]

 In addition to communicating with healthcare professionals, there is also the consideration of cultural and religious practices of detained individuals that must be respected. Not having staff on hand who are familiar with and can observe these practices
violates the human rights of detained individuals.

We demand detailed answers from your agency laying out the following:

1) What is being done to cultivate staff, healthcare and otherwise, with the linguistic and cultural aptitude to efficiently communicate with detained individuals?

 

2) What is being done to provide linguistically appropriate mental healthcare providers or interpreters who are trained to work with children who have been traumatized, either by family separations or during their journey to the United States? It is scientifically
proven that in situations such as these, children are at an increased risk of experiencing PTSD, anxiety, and depression among other mental health disorders.[3]

 

3) Finally, will there be linguistically and culturally competent individuals assisting with reuniting children and parents who have been separated?

 

All of us can understand the frightening prospect of being in a foreign land in the midst of a physical or mental health crisis, with no one who can communicate what is happening. We will continue to monitor the actions of your agency regarding these individuals
who have been separated and your progress in providing adequate resources to serve them until they can be reunited and released from detention. Thank you for your kind consideration, we look forward to your agency’s prompt response.

Sincerely,

 

Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: HealthCare, Immigration, Judiciary

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