Indigenous Guatemalans Face Communication Challenges At Border

Indigenous people have faced major hurdles in their migration to the United States. Language and cultural barriers add extra challenges and stress, as they grapple with an unfamiliar asylum system. 

El Paso Times talked with 26-year-old Melinda and her family about the difficult journey the Guatemalan family made to the U.S.-Mexico border. Speaking only the Indigenous language of K’iche’, Melinda was entirely reliant on another Guatemalan migrant for all communication. Melinda did not speak directly with any United States Customs and Border Protection Officer upon reaching the border. She was extremely confused and scared, and considered herself lucky to be assisted by the Mexican government agency Grupo Beta. 

Another Indigenous Guatemalan immigrant, Alma, shared Melinda’s grief with the process. Her son, Salvador, fainted in the extreme conditions of the journey. At the border, according to Alma, “no one came near” to explain the asylum process in the United States.

These experiences are not uncommon. Recent studies discovered that one in five detainees in the United States are Indigenous. It is essential that the United States allocate resources to expand language services at the border, in order to effectively explain the asylum process to migrants. Failure to do so would be a failure in justice.

Read El Paso Times’ Story Here: