Santa Fe, New Mexico is well known as a center of art and culture, as well as a multicultural city of Spanish heritage. Tourists flock to the city for its historical architecture around the Plaza, its outdoor activities and to visit art galleries and the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. However, Santa Fe, the state capital of New Mexico, is experiencing a growing problem. The courts are having trouble paying for language interpretation services, according to a recent New York Times article.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires courts to provide non-English speakers with interpreters in both civil and criminal cases. While these costs do add up, interpretation also helps contain costs related to reversals and appeals because the parties didn’t understand what was going on.
More than one-third of those who live in New Mexico speak a language other than English at home. Unsurprisingly, approximately 20% of Santa Fe’s court cases require the use of interpretation services. The most requested languages for court interpretation in Santa Fe are Spanish and Navajo, but services in other languages are required as well.
While a percentage of the people who require court interpretation services do speak at least some English, the truth is that they can more easily express themselves and their versions of the facts with the aid of interpretation services. In addition to the benefits of having people more fully cooperate with court proceedings, this allows non-native English speakers more equal treatment under the law, as well as the ability to express themselves more freely than if they were trying to understand and speak about the proceedings in a language they didn’t fully understand.
Unfortunately though, the demand for interpretation services is growing and costs are rising. New Mexico, and other states in the same predicament, say it’s difficult to come up with money. They increasingly find themselves pleading with the state over funding.
We can’t balance budgets at the expense of justice though. The states need to step up and allocate more funds to meet the obligations to the people in their jurisdiction.