Buffalohair, Burmese Refugees Coping with Language and Abuse in the USA

Burmese Refugees Coping with Language and Abuse in the USA

Working within the Burmese communities in the Great State of Texas I’ve become keenly aware of the need for educated and certified translators/interpreters. Currently some communities use ad hoc interpreters that usually consist of fellow countrymen who’ve migrated earlier and have a basic knowledge of the English language. These interpreters give their fellow countrymen a sense of security and safety as they try to navigate in this new and complex country. Unfortunately, I’ve also uncovered some horror stories from refugees who normally keep quiet out fear of reporting anyone in a position of authority.

Though immigrant ad hoc interpreters do aid in the assimilation process many do not grasp critical nuances of the English language either and this has caused refugees incalculable harm. Case Workers also share in the lacking of critical communications skills as well as the Racial & Religious discrimination aspect of the refugee’s plight. Tribal and religious differences hinder assimilation for many true refugees since prejudices from Burma prevail under the noses of American based NGO refugee services, even in Dallas-Fort Worth. Intimidation, Hatred, and Fraud are also other very real issues I’ve discovered. Some interpreters and case workers have thrown objects at refugees, shouted and chastised them simply because they did not understand a question or procedure, something the interpreter was negligent in explaining in the first place. What a first impression; “Welcome to America” and wham someone tosses a wad of papers in your face or insults the core of your ethnic identity.

Other interpreter’s absconded food cards for personal use from refugees as well as take commissions under the table for sending groups of tribal immigrants to less than savoury jobbers. Bias has also permeated the courtrooms as inept and prejudice ad hoc’s take sides leaving the refugee with no true voice in court and that is a travesty of justice. Small wonder mental health and social issues are on the rise including suicide because refugees have nowhere to turn. The authority figures they should have confidence lost the sacred bond of trust. The refugee simply falls through the cracks with no recourse and in some cases resort to alcohol, drugs and other vices while destroying their families in the process. With little proper representation the isolation turned their American experience into a nightmare of despair. One Karen woman told me she wished she simply was killed by the junta rather than suffer a slow death in America.

Many ad hoc interpreters have become agents for various unscrupulous religious organizations and use their position to gather parishioners while in the service of their NGO. The fact many refugees are either Buddhist or Muslim targets them for neglect and abuse if they are not aligned with other dogmas. I’ve read the ethics codes of many NGO refugee services and it is expressly forbidden to solicit and promote religion in the course of their duties yet it prevails with a vengeance. If you are a Buddhist or Muslim you are considered a second class refugee and are offered menial job opportunities if any. Members of the same tribe or religion as the interpreter or case worker are offered more lucrative job offers. Some interpreters simply ignore other tribes but go through the motions while focusing on their people in earnest. They have their clients lie about the language they speak regardless of the fact most people speak Burmese. This is common place.

Only a fraction of the refugees do not speak Burmese in reality because Burmese is the primary language with everything written and spoken in Burmese, even in tribal areas. One person told an interpreter he only spoke a tribal language, in perfect Burmese, costing time and money to NGO’s and service providers to accommodate his demands. Later it was learned he was fluent in several languages including Burmese. But it’s the least connected refugee with true language barriers that faces the steepest obstacles because the cards are stacked against them almost from the time they arrive on American shores. After all, they truly don’t know English or the concept of modern living and their naïveté places them at the mercy of others for even the basics.

The most vulnerable tribes I’ve documented, so far, are the Kayah and the Karen but it’s the Buddhists and Muslims as a whole who bare the brunt of racial and religious inequality. They do not get the qualitative medical services they are entitled to and employment opportunities are given to others. Indifference to the needs of the less fortunate ‘real refugees’ is rampant throughout the field by racially, financially and religiously motivated interpreters and case workers. There is a conspiracy within some groups to affix members in translation/interpreter and case working positions in an effort to hoard critical services and benefits. Some interpreters have gone as far as to teach their tribesman how to defraud the system of food cards, welfare and other illicit activities. One interpreter took her clients to a friend to do their taxes. She received a finder’s fee; the refugees got a giant tax return with the help of a shady taxman only to pay back taxes and fines for filing a bogus return later in the year. Unaware of possible legal recourse they quietly pay the bill and remain silent.

Several religious figures have promoted ‘making babies’ to garner more monies from the federal government by way of aid. The use of religion as a tool for the manipulation of the less fortunate is all too common. Criminality is rampant on many fronts since the victims are totally unaware of their rights and continue to be subjugated as if they were still in Burma. and that is quite illegal from a human rights perspective. By no means do I imply all Christian interpreters are frauds and churches bogus for it was Christians who pointed out these abuses of faith and authority within their communities to me in the first place. They asked me to share this situation to the world for awareness in an effort to stem the tide of fraud that appears to be gaining momentum.

The pulpit has become an instruction guide for human trafficking of brides, welfare, medical, and food assistance fraud. Recruitment into the rolls of these churches is the primary goal for many interpreters and I’ve documented more cases than I could have imagined during my investigation. Basically fraudsters have brought the feudal and corrupted system from Burma to the US and are preying on the tribes they preyed on before. Not all interpreters are corrupted but there are enough of them to bring this situation to the attention of both state and federal agencies. Since I also cover human rights issues throughout the world I truly believe this situation is common with other refugee communities. Somali’s face the same plight as criminals from Al Shabaab find a new way to America, just act like a refugee, get a UN name, set up shop and abuse their own people, again. Only this time, the pie is much bigger. Rather than swindle a villager out of a goat or a chicken, they swindle them out of their cash and food.

The lack of real education within the ad hoc communities is rampant as well. Many interpreters have fraudulent diplomas from high school, seminary schools, colleges and other places of higher education, out of Malaysia. Sadly I’ve uncovered many frauds that don’t even have high school certificates but have nice degrees printed up in either Malaysia or the US. It’s a wide spread scam and I’ve only touched the tip of the ice berg since there is much more I uncovered over the years. As a tax paying US citizen I am completely disgusted with what some of these interpreters, case workers and bogus religious figures are doing within the confines my country. Those are yours and my tax dollars these thugs are stealing. They are reinventing themselves and their flock to become the next generation of welfare recipients intentionally. Some places of worship have become dens of iniquity where they conspire and promote fraud within their ethnic groups and the innocent refugees are caught in the crossfire and ignored. I sat in as a preacher expounded on how it was OK to buy and traffic a young wife to America and how it was OK to lie about ‘some things’ to get more cash from welfare. What is that all about eh?

Fortunately I have readers and friends from the Texas Legislature, House of Representatives, Congress, Homeland Security and the White House itself and this story is a heads up for them. After years of investigation I have volumes that would raise the hair on a person’s neck because of the totality of abuse being committed by people in a position of trust. It’s all about protecting the people who’ve come to America to escape tyranny and it’s also about protecting the integrity of the interpreter/translator and refugee services immigrants depend on. From medical services to the legal system people deserve a fair and unbiased professional to aid them in the assimilation process. The lack of accountability and the need for checks and balances within this professional occupation is all too apparent.

The lack of integrity within the interpreter/translator and refugee services has made a void where criminality flourishes. I know exactly how far this has gone for it is actually out of control since there is no comprehensive regulatory protocol. If there is protocol than the need for enforcement should be the next course of action and allow due process to take its course within our legal system. There is no excuse for fraud and tax evasion and it is clear these are just some of the issues that must be addressed along with other crimes that are being committed on the hapless refugee. Some of the players are already deep within the system but I identified them and they are now my science project. Most people are oblivious to the silent cries of the innocent victims of racial and religious inequality but I hear them loud and clear. I am their witness and would speak before congress when the opportunity arises.

It is time for all interpreter/translators and case workers to fall under state and federal regulations with checks and balances to insure quality and professionalism within this specialized and challenging career. Would you trust a ‘doctor’ with shady credentials to perform surgery on you? Of course the answer is no, so by the same token interpreter/translators and case workers should follow the same protocol as other professionals do. The fact interpreters and case workers literally have the lives of others in their control should be reason enough to maintain the highest standard of professionalism and ethics regardless if it’s a NGO or a government agency.

We are not in South East Asia and we don’t have to settle for ‘someone’ who knows a little English to communicate with other tribes we encounter deep in the jungle. We are in America and there are educated and qualified people, with verifiable credentials, capable and qualified to maintain the level of excellence required in this critical field. Training should be uniform with applied theorem within the curriculum and language assessments should be performed by third party testers completely unaffiliated or under the direct control of state to maintain integrity. The system that exists today is totally corrupt since NGO evaluators hire their spouses and friends who have no qualifications other than tribal affiliation. The damage they’ve done to refugees would fill a book but I’ve rambled long enough.

Integrity is the cornerstone of excellence and professionalism

Your Devil’s Advocate

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