A lack of Spanish interpreters at the Richmond County Civil Courthouse has created a backlog of cases for the borough's Latino population. The slowdown has community leaders calling the problem a barrier to justice. NY1's Krizia Ruiz has the story.
This mother and daughter walked into the courthouse on Staten Island with confusion, worry, and plenty of questions.
The court's only Spanish interpreter, Henry Caldez, was able to help them through the process.
Yet not all who show up for court appearances have the same luck. That's because Caldez only works 3 days a week.
The island's civil courthouse is the only one in all five boroughs that doesn’t have a full time interpreter on staff.
"Having one Spanish interpreter in our court only there a couple days a week, it creates a problem," said Attorney Steve Crowe, of the law firm Duskin & Crowe. "If the folks who can’t speak Spanish can’t get attended to quickly, it backs up for everybody."
Litigants are asked to request a translator ahead of time.
Yet according to many attorneys, sometimes clients are forced to wait a week and even months for someone to be assigned.
Dulce Chuva who works at "El Centro Del Inmigrante" an immigrant advocacy center, says this limits their access to a speedy resolution:
"It limits even your ability to, as an individual to be able to advocate for yourself, for your rights, for your sense of justice," Chuva said.
Causing many to fear, and sometimes not report to court at all.
"If they are aware that they don’t have someone there to help them out they’ll be more hesitant to even show up," Chuva said.
We spoke with a few immigrants who experienced delays caused by the lack of interpreters -- but because of their immigration status, declined to speak on camera.
Still, those in the heavily-Latino community of Port Richmond say the need for more translators is urgent.
"Us as Spanish people, we don’t speak English very well so I believe the state could improve that," said one neighborhood resident. "We really need that help."
The office of court administration says it has reached out to courts all over the city to determine where interpreters should be assigned.
The agency says its last review a year ago determined a full time interpreter wasn't needed at the island's civil court.