BY ISN STAFF | October 6, 2014
NEW ORLEANS, LA – Student interpreters at Loyola University New Orleans are lending their skills to help local lawyers and other immigration advocates aid an influx of unaccompanied minors fleeing from Central America.
The group of at least 17 student interpreters from Loyola’s new Spanish/English Translation and Interpreting Certificate Program are joining in on a pro bono project led by the New Orleans-based immigration law firm, Ware | Gasparian and managing partner Kathleen Gasparian ’95, J.D. ’02. The project, called PB&J—Pro Bono and Juveniles—is a way to connect these child migrants with not only the free legal help they so desperately need, but also the interpreters necessary to break through the language barrier.
The Loyola student interpreters are gaining hands-on experience and volunteering their skills for what many in New Orleans see as a developing humanitarian crisis. The New Orleans immigration court, for example, is handling more than 1,200 cases of these unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America, according to The Lens, a nonprofit news organization with offices at Loyola.
“Loyola University New Orleans puts student interpreters at the forefront of not only addressing an urgent need in the local community, but the university is also helping its students hone skills that are in high demand all across the U.S.,” said Lisbeth Philip, Ph.D., academic director of Loyola’s Translation and Interpreting Program. “When our students help interpret for child migrants coming into the New Orleans area, they are not only volunteering their skills for a great cause, but are also practicing the Jesuit ideals they’ve learned at Loyola—to think critically and act justly.”
The project, in its beginning phases, is currently determining the most vulnerable of these children and how to help them through the U.S. immigration system. At least some of the children may qualify for a relief called Special Immigrant Juvenile status, which is available for abused, abandoned or neglected children, allowing them to stay in the U.S., as opposed to facing deportation.
Loyola student translators such as Lisa Ponce de Leon, who is pursuing certification to be an interpreter in the health care and legal fields through Loyola’s program, says helping these child migrants is not only a service to the community, but also a way for her to put herself in their shoes and help them when they need it most.
Loyola University New Orleans is a 2014-2015 Ignatian Solidarity Network member institution.