February 22, 2023
Earlier this month, several Ayudantes testified during the Council of the District of Columbia’s Performance Oversight hearings to demonstrate the importance of funding Ayuda’s services. Full copies of Ayuda’s oral and written testimony are available below. Click to jump to testimony:
- Paige Jordan, Language Access Manager
- David Steib, Language Access Director
- Colleen Normile, Project END Managing Attorney
- Marilyn Lovo, Senior Language Access Manager
Testimony Before the Committee on Recreation, Libraries and Youth Affairs – Office of Latino Affairs Performance Oversight Hearing, Feb 6
Paige Jordan, Language Access Manager
“Ayuda is appreciative of the opportunity to testify at this performance oversight hearing before the Committee on Recreation, Libraries, and Youth Affairs regarding the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs. Since 1973, Ayuda has served more than 150,000 immigrants in the DC Metro area, empowering immigrants to access justice and transform their lives. Leveraging our expertise in providing culturally-specific services to low-income immigrants, Ayuda looks forward to continued partnership with the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs as we rise to meet the growing demand for legal, social, and language access services across the District.
We are grateful to the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs (MOLA) for the support of our work. The Latino Community Development Grant from MOLA allows us to provide essential and highly responsive services to individuals with urgent legal needs, to ensure DC residents maintain lawful immigration status. In the first quarter of this fiscal year alone, Ayuda’s legal program served 13 clients in 14 legal matters with this funding. As immigrant residents of the District face an ever-changing legal landscape, access to legal counsel is more critical than ever. Ayuda’s immigration legal services help low-income immigrants identify available immigration benefits, navigate the complex bureaucracy that controls access to immigration benefits, and present their case successfully.
Another crucial source of funding for Ayuda is the Immigrant Justice Legal Services Grant (IJLS). Since 2020, Ayuda has been a recipient of IJLS funding, which supports our immigration legal services program and the Community Legal Interpreter Bank. In FY22, with IJLS funding, Ayuda’s attorneys hosted 5 Know Your Rights Presentations, with 294 attendees receiving vital legal information. Ayuda conducted 38 legal screenings and offered 37 brief legal consultations. Ayuda’s staff and pro bono attorneys provided full legal representations for DC residents in 148 matters. Ayuda’s Community Legal Interpreter Bank helped ensure that the IJLS program benefits every participant regardless of the language that they use to communicate by providing interpretation and document translation services to all IJLS grantee organizations. In FY22, the Community Legal Interpreter Bank provided local, specially trained interpreters on 264 different occasions and translated 281 documents for IJLS grantees. This language access data does not capture the full scope of the need across the District, as it does not include the more than $7,600 spent from outside funding sources on local, specially trained interpreters and document translation services for IJLS clients. These numbers also do not take into account the funds spent in FY22 on LanguageLine calls using on-demand telephonic interpreters to speak with IJLS clients.
In our 50th year of advocating for low-income immigrants, Ayuda is committed to ensuring our organization can continue to respond effectively to the communities we serve, as demand for our services continues to grow. The District continues to be a primary destination for newly arriving immigrants, many of them unaccompanied minors, migrants arriving on buses from Texas and Arizona, immigrants seeking TPS and more fleeing high levels of violence, crime, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty. Ayuda has been part of the community-led response to this humanitarian crisis, providing migrants with brief legal advice and counsel, social services/case management, and language access.
The need for these services for newly arriving migrants continues to increase, outpacing the financial resources and staff capacity of area nonprofits. Newly arriving migrants often face language barriers and receive little guidance from government authorities, and as a result, miscommunication and uncertainty abound. Lack of knowledge and conflicting information around immigration procedures, such as change-of-address and mandatory ICE check-ins, can lead to inadvertent noncompliance, which can negatively affect the outcomes of immigrant’s cases. Immigrants also face challenges accessing work permits because of their immigration status. Legal advice around these processes is needed to help immigrants increase their understanding of and navigate the complex bureaucracy of the immigration system. Beyond initial legal services, newly arriving immigrants who choose to stay in the DC metro area will need representation in their legal matters as well as consumer education on legal fraud schemes. As the demand for expert legal counsel grows, so does the demand for professional interpretation and translation services.
As an organization deeply embedded in the DC Latino community, we are seeing a critical rise in the need for low-barrier legal and language access services among immigrants, both from long-term residents and newly arriving migrants. Increased support from MOLA in the form of multi-year funding will help ensure our mission of helping immigrants thrive remains sustainable for years to come. With increased funding, our legal services program will ensure that more immigrants can successfully navigate the legal system, while our interpreter bank will break down language barriers for more immigrants. Ayuda looks forward to continuing to count on the support of MOLA to help immigrants access justice and thereby access educational and workforce opportunities, safety, and stability for themselves and their families.”
Testimonies Before the Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety – Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants Performance Oversight Hearing, Feb 10
David Steib, Language Access Director
“Ayuda appreciates the opportunity to submit testimony to the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety regarding the vital role that the Access to Justice Initiative plays in ensuring that the District of Columbia has an effective safety net for all its residents. Today I will speak about the Community Legal Interpreter Bank, a project run by Ayuda that results in equal access to legal services for District residents who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing or limited English proficient.
Ayuda is a nonprofit organization that helps immigrants from across the world overcome obstacles in order to succeed and thrive in the United States. Since 1973, Ayuda has served more than 150,000 immigrants in the DC Metro area, empowering immigrants to access justice and transform their lives. Our services include legal representation, therapy, case management, advocacy, and language access.
When the DC Council passed legislation creating the Access to Justice Initiative, the Council included a requirement that some of the Initiative’s funding should be used for a shared legal interpreter bank. For the last sixteen years, the Language Access Program at Ayuda has been home to that bank, which is called the Community Legal Interpreter Bank (Bank).
The Bank is a unique national model that has been extremely effective in creating equitable access to civil legal services for Deaf/Hard of Hearing and limited English proficient individuals. The Bank’s success can be attributed to the breadth of services that it offers, the efficiency of having a shared resource for dozens of legal service providers, and the degree to which it caters specifically to the needs of legal service providers and their clients. In a city as diverse as the District of Columbia, the populace cannot be equitably served without investing energy, expertise, and financial resources in language access.
Organizations across the country contact Ayuda on a regular basis looking to replicate our model in their cities. Recently, the New York City Council awarded a grant to a Language Access Collaborative to launch a shared legal interpreter bank in their city, modeled after our bank. Here in DC, we worked with the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants to replicate the Bank in the victim services setting. Our Victim Services Interpreter Bank trains interpreters to be trauma-informed and victim-centered. Ayuda has submitted separate testimony about that bank for victim services and the work that the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants is doing to support language access for victims of crime.
According to census data, more than 34,000 individuals in the District over the age of 4 years old are limited-English proficient (LEP) or non-English proficient (NEP). This group constitutes close to 6percent of the city’s population. Since 2010, the number of LEP/NEP residents of DC has increased by more than 10,000 individuals. Among these residents of DC, the top four languages spoken are Spanish, Amharic, French, and Chinese. In addition, our city is home to a large concentration of Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals, many of whom use sign language to communicate. More than 14,000 people in the District have hearing difficulty.
Ayuda’s Community Legal Interpreter Bank trains professional interpreters to work with lawyers and their clients in an out of court setting. We train interpreters using a curriculum that we helped to develop, the Language of Justice. Interpreters learn how to maintain confidentiality, guard the attorney-client privilege, and avoid the unauthorized practice of law. The Bank then pays these professional, specially trained interpreters to go where they are needed, as requested by the more than 40 civil legal services providers in DC that use the Bank. Interpreters can meet with service providers and their clients in-person, over the phone, or over video.
When one of our specially trained interpreters is not available, legal service providers may use on-demand telephonic interpretation through the Bank’s contracted third-party service. Written translation services are also available, allowing providers to create outreach materials in various languages and to ensure that written communication with a particular client is in the appropriate language. The Bank’s staff are experts in language access and provide training and technical assistance to the city’s civil legal service providers. The benefits of the Bank are free because of grant funding, including an award from the Access to Justice Initiative, administered by the DC Bar Foundation.
This project reaches some of DC’s neediest residents by removing common obstacles that often prevent individuals from getting the help that they need. A limited English proficient or Deaf/Hard of Hearing DC resident might suffer without accessing available legal services for many reasons, including, but not limited to, fear of reprisal from an abuser or perpetrator, lack of information regarding the assistance that is available, shame or embarrassment, mistrust of lawyers or law enforcement (sometimes founded on past interactions in other countries), and lack of knowledge regarding legal rights. When a person cannot communicate in English, all of the obstacles just mentioned are compounded. Such linguistically isolated individuals are extremely difficult to reach.
Ayuda’s interpreter bank breaks down the language barrier that stands in the way of accessing help for limited-English proficient and Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals. Each time a legal client receives culturally appropriate services in his or her language, faith in the system is restored. That client will relay to members of his or her community that help is available, even for those who cannot speak English. The success of the Community Legal Interpreter Bank has demonstrated the importance ofensuring that legal services are accessible to all residents, regardless of the languages that they use to communicate.
The Community Legal Interpreter Bank has grown to serve 41 different organizations that provide civil legal services to DC residents. There are 99 interpreters who contract with the Bank, working in 20 different languages, including Spanish, Amharic, French, Chinese, and American Sign Language. Each interpreter has completed our multi-day Language of Justice training created especially for this project. In fiscal year 2022, we were able to offer the Language of Justice and train 18 interpreters who work in a variety of spoken languages, including Dari, Farsi, Pashto, Thai, Russian, Portuguese, and Urdu. In fiscal year 2023, we will offer the Language of Justice in American Sign Language for hearing and Deaf sign language interpreters.
During the last fiscal year, the Bank provided these specially trained interpreters on more than 330 occasions, provided on-demand telephonic interpretation through LanguageLine in more than 9,000 instances, and arranged for the translation of more than 460 documents. The majority of requests were for assistance with speakers of Spanish, Amharic, and French. We served clients living throughout the city, in all 8 wards. The Bank helped service providers reach a variety of clients in innumerable ways. We provided interpretation for at least 25 tenant association or housing coop meetings in Spanish, Amharic, Mandarin, and Cantonese. The Bank provided simultaneous interpretation over Zoom for three Know Your Rights presentations (in Spanish, French, and Amharic). We also provided interpretation for several legal clinics, including the DC Bar Pro Bono Center’s Immigration Legal Clinic at Carlos Rosario (in Spanish, Amharic, and Mandarin). The Bank translated Know Your Rights materials on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act into American Sign Language (using video). In addition, we assisted countless attorneys in conducting intake, holding client meetings, and preparing their clients for court and administrative hearings.
The pandemic has had a profound impact on the Bank. Providing language access is more complicated than ever. The Bank now trains legal services staff on complicated technological solutions to having remote meetings in which separate languages will be spoken on different audio channels. We also now have a policy that in-person assignments are only offered to interpreters who are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations. These adjustments take additional staff time. Additionally, after 16 years of working with the legal services community to ensure equity for limited English proficient and Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals, the demand for language access continues to grow. The Bank has normalized serving clients in languages other than English. There is also a larger diversity of languages represented in the requests for assistance received by the Bank. The Bank must continue offering the Language of Justice, training more interpreters who may then be invited to accept assignments from the Bank, in order to ensure the best possible fulfillment rates. In addition, we would like to provide continuing education trainings for the interpreters with whom we contract who already took the Language of Justice. Finally, we aim to also provide entry level training on interpretation for bilingual individuals who are looking to enter the profession of interpretation.
New funding for the Access to Justice Initiative in FY22 and FY23 has allowed the Bank to more fully realize its mission and purpose. The 41 different organizations served by the Bank are receiving excellent technical assistance, the Bank is providing essential training to more interpreters, and the Bank is less often in the position of having to turn away requests due to lack of funding. To avoid backsliding, the new funding must continue. The need for language access in legal services has never been greater and will continue to grow. We must build on our progress to avoid abandoning linguistically isolated communities in need of legal services.
The Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants and the DC Bar Foundation, as the grantors for the Access to Justice Initiative, play a vital role in ensuring equal access to justice for all DC residents. The work of the Community Legal Interpreter Bank helps to ensure that outreach by legal services organizations in DC is conducted in various languages, that when limited English proficient and Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals do seek help they are met in their languages, and that our city’s resources devoted to equal justice are open to everyone. We ask that the DC Council and the Mayor continue to support the critical role that the Access to Justice Initiative Plays in strengthening the city’s safety net.”
Colleen Normile, Managing Attorney, Project END
“Good afternoon and thank you, Chairperson Pinto and members of the Committee, for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Colleen Normile and I am the Managing Attorney for Ayuda’s Project END.
Ayuda has been serving immigrant communities for 50 years. Ayuda offers a full range of immigration, family law, and consumer fraud assistance, social services, and language access support for low-income immigrants from anywhere in the world. Ayuda’s clients includes survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and other violent crimes. Our low-barrier services ensure that D.C immigrant survivors, who are often hesitant to access resources, have a safe and reliable place to seek help.
My testimony will focus on the key role that the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants (OVSJG), plays in ensuring that immigrant victims of crime receive culturally competent services. Last fiscal year, through the OVSJG VOCA grant, Ayuda provided holistic, wrap-around legal and social services to 235 victims of crime in the District. Additionally, in FY22, through OVSJG VAWA STOP funding, Ayuda’s Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Program provided legal services to 268 immigrant victims and case management services to 155 immigrant victims.
Immigrant victims are often unable to access victim services due to fear of the criminal justice system, Limited English Proficiency, lack of knowledge about their legal rights and available services, and transportation barriers. Immigrant survivors are highly vulnerable to detention and deportation, even when there are legal protections available to them under federal immigration law, because they are often unable or afraid to communicate their victim status to ICE or to a federal immigration judge due to language and cultural barriers.
With OVSJG funding, Ayuda’s ensures that the District’s immigrant crime victims have access to supportive services as they pursue legal remedies based on their victimization. Ayuda’s legal services include advice, counsel, and extended representation in immigration matters relating to victims in their restoration. Our social services team provides case management and advocacy services for immigrant victims of crime, including crisis intervention, trauma informed emotional support, safety planning; accompaniment to emergency medical care and forensic examination, and financial and material assistance.
Project END is a program unique to Ayuda that serves immigrant victims of notario fraud, or immigration legal services fraud. This assistance includes reporting the crime to prosecuting authorities, making complaints to civil authorities, filing claims for restitution, and supporting these individuals in repairing their immigration statuses. While this is an understudied and underreported problem, since Project END began in 2013, Ayuda has found that approximately 10% of our clients have received immigration advice or services from a non-lawyer and have been victims of immigration services fraud. There are currently at least 100 businesses offering immigration legal services in the DC metro area without a licensed attorney on staff. Immigrants are uniquely vulnerable to consumer fraud due to limited English proficiency and/or lack of familiarity with US laws and customs.
Amid rapid and confusing changes in immigration policies, notario fraud continues to be a persistent issue, as individuals who are not authorized to provide legal services masquerade as licensed attorneys to defraud immigrants through the provision of unlicensed legal services. Even positive changes can increase instances of fraud as unscrupulous actors take advantage of confusion and misinformation around these changes. These fraud schemes often cost low-income immigrants thousands of dollars, and in the worst cases, can create irrevocable negative outcomes in their immigration proceedings, resulting in the issuance of deportation orders and family separation.
Washington, DC continues to be a primary destination for newly arriving immigrants, many of them unaccompanied minors, migrants arriving on buses from Texas and Arizona, immigrants seeking TPS, and more fleeing high levels of violence, crime, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty. Newly arrived immigrants need access to expert legal counsel to help them identify available legal options. Consumer education on immigration fraud schemes will be needed to help prevent newly arrived immigrants from falling victim to fraudulent actors, who often target immigrants who are unfamiliar with new environments and desperate to legalize their status. Additionally, immigrants will need access to case management to help them access safety and stability and heal from their trauma.
With these trends continuing, Ayuda anticipates that the demand for low-barrier legal and social services will continue growing. We remain committed to helping meet the increased demand for legal and social services during this time, leveraging our expertise in providing culturally specific services to low-income immigrants. Ayuda’s ability to meet this increased demand depends on the ongoing support of OVSJG. To ensure that immigrant survivors can build safe and secure lives, we urge the Committee to continue to support the critical role that OVSJG plays in the funding of core services for victims of crime.”
Marilyn Lovo, Senior Language Access Manager
“Ayuda appreciates the opportunity to submit testimony to the Committee on the Judiciary regarding the funding provided to the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants. Ayuda is a nonprofit organization that helps immigrants from across the world overcome obstacles to succeed and thrive in the United States. Each year, we serve individuals and families hailing from over 100 different countries. Our services include legal representation, therapy, case management, advocacy, and language access.
Ayuda joins DC’s victim services community in their concern that victims may not receive the help that they need due to programs and services being cut and inaccessible to victims. These are the direct result of a combination of social and economic factors disproportionately impacting victims, including nationality and immigration status, language proficiency, employment loss and economic uncertainty, loss of health insurance and other public benefits, and more.
According to the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project, immigrant women are less likely to report their experiences of abuse than U.S. born women because of the existing language barriers between victims and police officers. Language barriers significantly affect the outcome of victims’ interactions with police and deter many limited-English proficient (LEP) women from reporting abuse. Such inequities were magnified during the COVID-19 health crisis, and its effects rage on. Immigrants, who often face language barriers due to being LEP, are particularly vulnerable, unaware of protections available for them, and face increased and unique barriers to access vital services. These vulnerabilities are compounded when information about the coronavirus is only available in English, inadequately interpreted or translated, or inaccessible even when information is available in languages other than English.
We are grateful that the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants (OVSJG) recognizes the need to serve all victims, regardless of the languages that they use to communicate. We urge the Council to continue supporting the agency in its work to serve marginalized communities.
One of the projects funded by OVSJG is Ayuda’s Victim Services Interpreter Bank (VSIB). This innovative project is administered by Ayuda’s Language Access Program and is modeled after our nationally renowned Community Legal Interpreter Bank, which provides specially trained interpreters to public interest lawyers and their clients. The legal bank was created in 2007 and is funded by the DC Bar Foundation with appropriations from the Access to Justice Initiative Program through OVSJG. The sister bank for crime victims, VSIB, launched nearly nine years ago, in November of 2014, and is funded by OVSJG.
VSIB trains professional interpreters to work alongside victim service providers, ensuring that the interpretation will be victim-centered and trauma-informed. VSIB operates at all hours of the day and night, with interpreters available on an emergency basis or by scheduling appointments ahead of time.
When a local, specially trained interpreter is not available, victim service providers may access on-demand telephonic interpretation. Translation services are also available, allowing providers to create outreach materials in various languages and to ensure that written communication with a particular client is in the appropriate language. VSIB’s benefits are free to victim service providers because of funding from OVSJG.
VSIB reaches some of DC’s neediest residents by removing a common obstacle that often prevents crime victims from getting the help that they need. A crime victim might suffer without accessing available services for many reasons, including, but not limited to, fear of reprisal from an abuser or perpetrator, lack of information regarding the assistance that is available, shame or embarrassment, mistrust of government or law enforcement (sometimes founded on past interactions in other countries), and lack of knowledge regarding legal rights. When a victim cannot communicate in English, all of the obstacles just mentioned are compounded. Such linguistically isolated individuals are extremely difficult to reach.
VSIB breaks down the language barrier that stands in the way of accessing help for LEP and Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals. Each time a victim receives culturally appropriate services in their language, faith in the system is restored. That victim will relay to members of their community that help is available, even for those who cannot speak English.
According to census data, more than 34,000 individuals in the District over the age of 4 years old are limited-English proficient (LEP) or non-English proficient (NEP). This group constitutes close to 6 percent of the city’s population. Since 2010, the number of LEP/NEP residents of DC has increased by more than 10,000 individuals. Among these residents of DC, the top four languages spoken are Spanish, Amharic, French, and Chinese. In addition, our city is home to a large concentration of Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals, many of whom use sign language to communicate. More than 14,000 people in the District have hearing difficulty.
In nearly 9 years, VSIB has grown to serve nearly 40 different organizations that provide victim services. There are over 70 interpreters accepting VSIB assignments in about 20 different languages, including Spanish, Amharic, French, Chinese, Arabic, Tigrinya, American Sign Language, and Ethiopian Sign Language. Ayuda helped to create a four-day training for interpreters on working with victims of crime called “Breaking Silence.” The interpreters working for VSIB have all either taken “Breaking Silence” or other substantially similar training on being victim-centered and trauma-informed. With adequate funding, we hope to continue training more interpreters, who may then be invited to accept VSIB assignments to ensure the best possible fulfillment rate when requests for interpreters are submitted.
During the 2022 fiscal year, VSIB provided local, specially trained interpreters on 299 occasions and on-demand telephonic interpretation in 1,686 instances. Most requests were for interpreters working in Spanish, Amharic, French, American Sign Language, and Dari. It is worth noting that on-demand telephonic interpretation services will always exceed the number of requests for VSIB’s local, specially trained interpreters. A lot of the work of victim service providers is conducted over the phone, whether it is staffing a hotline service, responding to a client calling for immediate assistance, immediately serving an unexpected walk-in client, handling cancellations, or speaking with clients about administrative matters such as scheduling. VSIB also arranged for the translation of 14 documents. In the past, the number of documents translated through VSIB has been much greater. In response to the ever-growing need for interpretation, VSIB prioritized interpretations and translating documents that were both client-specific and urgent. This meant declining requests to translate non-client-specific documents, such as outreach documents and general office forms, which are generally not urgent.
The pandemic has had a profound impact on VSIB. Providing language access is more complicated than ever. VSIB now trains victim services staff on complicated technological solutions to having remote meetings in which separate languages will be spoken on different audio channels. We also now have a policy that in-person assignments are only offered to interpreters who are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations. These adjustments take additional staff time. Additionally, after nearly 9 years of working with the victim services community to ensure equity for LEP and Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals, the demand for language access continues to grow. VSIB has normalized serving clients in languages other than English. There is also a larger diversity of languages represented in the requests for assistance received by VSIB. VSIB must continue offering “Breaking Silence,” training more interpreters who may then be invited to accept assignments, to ensure the best possible fulfillment rates. In addition, we would like to provide continuing education trainings for the interpreters with whom we contract who already took “Breaking Silence.” Finally, we aim to also provide entry level training on interpretation for bilingual individuals who are looking to enter the profession of interpretation.
VSIB serves victims throughout the city, helping advocates in a variety of ways, whether by providing interpretation for client intakes, ongoing one-on-one therapy, group counseling sessions for domestic violence and trauma victims, peer support groups, forensic interviews and exams for sexual assault victims, webinars on stalking and domestic violence, and much more.
Based on VSIB’s current usage, the project is clearly meeting an urgent need. A participating victim services nonprofit provided the following anecdote about one of the VSIB’s specially trained, trauma-informed interpreters: “We have had wonderful experiences with [VSIB] for Spanish interpretation. [VSIB] has provided interpreting services for an ongoing client and the client stated feeling very safe and comfortable with the [VSIB] interpreter and requested that we use [the VSIB interpreter] for all our future meetings.” Another participating victim services provider wrote that VSIB’s victim-centered and trauma-informed interpreters “have helped me have effective communication with my clients who do not speak English or have limited English language skills. The interpreters ensure that we are effectively using our time during a session and most importantly help improve client outcomes. I have also found it very helpful as a provider, that we can request specific interpreters for our clients. This gives my clients the opportunity to build rapport with an interpreter and this allows us to have a more positive client-provider relationship. My clients have all been satisfied with the interpretation services provided and they especially appreciate being able to work with the same interpreter every session. Ayuda provides an amazing service, and I am grateful to be able to work with them!”
The cost of providing interpretation and translation services to participating victim services providers has increased since the launch of VSIB in fiscal year 2015. This is partially because victim services organizations have grown more aware of VSIB’s services and are better able to utilize them. VSIB has seen a 59% increase in demand for interpretation since fiscal year 2021. In addition, VSIB now regularly provides interpreters for a large number of assignments requiring a team of sign language interpreters or a team of spoken language interpreters providing simultaneous interpretation. Filling such assignments is much more expensive than filling assignments that only require 1 interpreter. As a result, VSIB has not been able to translate any documents this fiscal year, to the detriment of the city’s limited-English proficient residents.
As a member organization of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, we join the Coalition’s request for increased funding for providers providing culturally specific services to respond to the ever-growing and ongoing needs of crime victims, including funding for language access services which are vital to the provision of victim services.
The District is home to diverse communities with distinct needs who may not be able to access services due to cultural or linguistic barriers. Many survivors of crime come from historically marginalized communities and seek services from culturally specific, community-based programs that understand their multi-faceted needs. The ongoing COVID-19 health crisis has restricted access to services and justice for many undocumented survivors of crime, and several organizations are having to increase their efforts to reach these communities that are in urgent need of these services.
Ayuda would also like to highlight the importance of the Access to Justice Initiative funding that the Council provides every year to help ensure that civil legal services are available to people living in poverty in the District. As dictated by the DC Code, a portion of that funding goes to a shared legal interpreter bank, which Ayuda manages.
We thank Chairperson Pinto for holding this hearing and the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants for their commitment to supporting victims and survivors in our city.”