According to a December 13 Associated Press report, the Department of Homeland Security has issued orders to Border Patrol officers to cease responding to local law enforcement requests to assist in translating for persons who do not speak English and are detained by the local authorities. The new order instructs the Border Patrol to direct local officials to other sources of interpretation such as commercial or non-profit organizations. This action by DHS follows a request to DHS from the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project that asserted that the Border Patrol sometimes used their role as translators as an opportunity to question aliens about their immigration status and detain those found to be illegally in the country.

This action by DHS is another nail in the coffin of effective enforcement of the nation’s immigration law. At present, the Border Patrol represents the only enforcement effort against newly arrived illegal aliens, which is one of the stated priorities of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch of DHS. Traditionally, the Border Patrol has worked beneficially with local law enforcement authorities. This new order downgrades that cooperation. It also denies the Border Patrol the opportunity to apprehend illegal aliens whom it might not encounter otherwise. And, finally, directing the Border Patrol to advocate the use of translators who are likely to be sympathetic towards illegal aliens amounts to an effort to protect the aliens against detention and possible deportation.