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Friday, August 01, 2008

Prof. Camayd-Freixas and the Postville, Iowa Raid

Translators and interpreters are not supposed to take sides in a conflict where they act as facilitators of communication between the parties. But what happens if the translator or interpreter witnesses an act that is patently unfair to one of the parties or if he sees a powerless group of people accused of crimes he firmly believes they did not commit?

Dr. Erik Camayd-Freixas, who teaches Spanish at Florida International University and is a federally certified court interpreter, found an answer to this question not in the law books of his university, but in his conscience. When he saw a powerful agency of the most powerful government on Earth come down like a ton of bricks on a group of 300 undocumented, mostly semi-literate Guatemalan peasant immigrants accused of serious crimes he was convinced they did not commit, he spoke up to denounce the injustice as he saw it.

He reported the irregularities he witnessed in the now infamous "Postville raid" in an essay originally intended for a small group of colleagues, but which immediately found its way to the Blogosphere, becoming the subject of intense discussions both within and outside the translator/interpreter community.

On July 24, 2008, Prof. Camayd-Freixas was called to testify before the House Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Committee. His statement to the Committee, together with his original essay, can be found at http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/Camayd-Freixas080724.pdf.

As a translator, I'm proud to belong to the same community as Dr. Camayd-Freixas, and I salute him for his courage.

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