Federal Agencies, Practice Resources, Liaison Activity

Practice Alert: Videos Replace Interpreters at Hearings

6/9/20 AILA Doc. No. 19071832. Removal & Relief

June 9, 2020

The DOJ OIG released an audit of EOIR's financial management practices, identifying “weaknesses in EOIR's budget planning process regarding its ability to track and forecast rising interpreter contract costs, which adversely affected EOIR’s budgeting of other financial resource needs.” As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, according to the DOJ OIG report, “The Trump administration grossly miscalculated budget projections before it cited funding problems to replace many immigration court interpreters in San Francisco and elsewhere with recorded videos.”

September 18, 2019

The San Francisco Chronicle obtained four prerecorded video advisals via FOIA that EOIR has begun using in some immigration courts. EOIR then released them. The videos are in English and Spanish and targeted separately to detained and non-detained individuals. EOIR has replaced interpreters at some master calendar hearings with these video advisals.

September 5, 2019

EOIR has begun replacing interpreters at master calendar hearings with prerecorded video advisals. The videos have been rolled out in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. The San Francisco Chronicle obtained transcripts of the separate videos that are played for immigrants who are in detention and not in detention, as well as a frequently asked questions handout they receive. AILA Senior Policy Counsel Laura Lynch told the Chronicle that the videos use "scare tactics" rather than informing individuals of their rights, noting that they warn against filing frivolous asylum claims without explaining what asylum is.

Read the transcripts of videos that are played for immigrants that the Chronicle obtained:

July 18, 2019

In July 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle and BuzzFeed News reported that EOIR was planning to replace in-court interpreters at Master Calendar Hearings (MCHs) with video advisals that would explain the nature of the courtroom proceedings, the respondent's rights and obligations, and other frequently asked questions. According to Buzzfeed, "The recordings are set to be made in Spanish initially, but will expand to 20 other commonly requested languages in the 'near future' and will begin the week of July 15 in certain in courts, including in New York and Miami."

On July 17, 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle confirmed that EOIR implemented this plan on Wednesday, July 17, in New York and Miami, for pro se respondents. AILA recently heard this may have been expanded to California. The situation appears to be fluid. If you have any additional information about the implementation of this new plan, or if you are aware of other locations where EOIR has implemented this plan, please submit a report to advocacy@aila.org.



Organizational Statements:

Congressional Letter:

  • 42 House Democrats Demand that DOJ Rescind New Plan to Eliminate In-Court Interpreters – July 26, 2019

Resources Related to El Rescate Legal Services v. EOIR

El Rescate Legal Services v. EOIR, 1989

On November 9, 1989, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California signed an order granting the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, holding that due process requires interpretation of an entire immigration court proceeding when the immigration judge concludes that an interpreter is necessary.

El Rescate Legal Services v. EOIR, 1991

On August 12, 1991, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed EOIR's appeal, holding that the district court did have jurisdiction and remanded for consideration of plaintiffs' constitutional claims.