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GALA Stands With Freelance Linguists: Joins Others and Signs Open Letter to EOIR

By: GALA Team, Information

03 December 2015

Alongside a substantial representation of other US-based language industry organizations, GALA has signed an open letter to the US Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) regarding a controversial new US federal contractor.  The issue in question is a new contract that provides foreign language interpreters for the immigration courts through the US Department of Justice. 

There has been considerable 'buzz' around the issue in the freelance community, with many interpreters refusing to sign the new contracts for a variety of reasons. 

GALA stands with our freelance linguists and partner associations who take issue with the contract.  Below please find a copy of the letter sent to the Executive Office of Immigration Review and the Office of Civil Rights.  


20 November 2015

The Honorable Juan P. Osuna
US Department of Justice
Executive Office of Immigration Review
5107 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 20530

Ms. Deeana Jang
US Department of Justice
Office of Civil Rights
Division of Federal Coordination and Compliance
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC  20530


 Dear Mr. Osuna and Ms. Jang:

On behalf of the American Translators Association and the undersigned organizations, we are writing to express our concern with the situation regarding the language services contract for the United States Executive Office of Immigration Review. To our understanding, the payment rates and working conditions for interpreters proposed under the new contract let by EOIR pose a significant threat to the orderly operations of the nation’s immigration courts, and therefore to the civil rights of immigrants under EO 13166 appearing in these courts. This situation has received ample media coverage, such as http://www.buzzfeed.com/davidnoriega/immigration-courts-could-lose-a-thi...

We are very concerned that vulnerable minorities will be underserved by unqualified and unprofessional interpreters as a result of the conditions in the contract let by the EIOR.

Other government agencies, including those within the Department of Justice as well as the Departments of State and Defense, among others, have recognized the importance of using professional interpreters, and pay accordingly, whether directly or through contract vehicles. The rates offered under the new contract undercut the current market significantly, as noted in the media reports. The additional overheads for recruiting, project management, and quality assurance make the current contract pricing even more unrealistic.

In addition, our organizations would like to suggest that one way the Department may consider ensuring quality language services is to avail itself of industry standards. In accordance with the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) of 1996, government agencies are encouraged to use consensus industry standards. Therefore, the undersigned organizations urge US DOJ to conform to ASTM F2089-15 Standard Practice for Language Interpreting.

Interpreting is a demanding skill that requires not only mastery of both languages and specialized terminology, but also years of practical training in interpreting, and an understanding of the ethics around providing this service.  A person who speaks another language, however well, may not necessarily be able to convey the information between two language speakers accurately or completely, absent professional training and experience as an interpreter.

It is easy to understand the importance of using professional interpreters, if one imagines being in court or in hospital in an area where you don't speak the language. Everyone would want to make sure that all of the critical information they provide is accurately conveyed to the relevant authorities.  A person's life may depend on it. The situation is no different for those persons arriving in immigration court.

We hope that the EIOR will carefully weigh the risks inherent in the low rates and working conditions proposed under the new contract, and work to ameliorate this situation.


Respectfully submitted on behalf of the following organizations:

American Translators Association (www.atanet.org)
Association of Language Companies (www.alcus.org)
Globalization and Localization Association (www.gala-global.org)
International Medical Interpreters Association (www.imiaweb.org)
InterpretAmerica (www.interpretamerica.com)
Joint National Committee for Languages (www.languagepolicy.org)
National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (www.najit.org)
National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (www.ncihc.org)
Red-T (www.red-t.org)


The Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) is a non-profit tade association supporting the language industry. As a membership organization, we support our member companies and the language sector by creating communities, championing standards, sharing knowledge, and advancing technology.