Translation: Murder

The great American melting pot (AmericanWiki)

Last year, an organization known as the Violence Intervention Program filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department alleging that they “deprived [six Latina women] of access to NYPD services” by denying them interpreters, despite their limited English proficiency.

“Not only does the NYPD fail to provide language assistance,” the lawsuit states. “It also degrades, ridicules and otherwise mistreats limited English proficient individuals who request interpreter services, actively demeaning them for their lack of English proficiency.”

Personally, this rings true since I’ve heard plenty of Americans complain about “foreigners” coming to America and making no effort to learn our language. Of course, I’m not aware of many Americans doing this when they move or travel to other countries, but that’s another issue altogether.

The lawsuit against the NYPD is still pending, but based on some recent developments, it now seems as if these allegations could be valid. Consider the case of Deisy Garcia and her two daughters, who were murdered on January 18th by her husband Miguel Mejia-Ramos.

Last May, Garcia filed a police report expressing fear that her husband might kill her and their two young daughters. Since Spanish was her native language, she filed her report in Spanish and believed police would follow up later. They never did.

Five months later—on November 27th—police responded to a call from Garcia’s home and were told that when her husband returned that morning, he threatened to kill her once again. As she did before, Garcia filed another report—also in Spanish—and described what happened like this: “At about 2:40 a.m. my husband came home and assaulted me… he pulled my hair and kicked me twice, then grabbed my phone. After he did that, I called the police, but he changed and ran out. Today in the morning, he was threatening me that he would take away my daughters.”

The following day—and likely because her May report was ignored—Garcia went to the police precinct to follow up and filed a formal complaint against her husband. Unfortunately, her claims never ended with an arrest; they ended in murder.

On January 18th, Mejia-Ramos returned home from a night of drinking, went through his wife’s phone and Facebook account, and discovered photographs of her with another man. In a rage, he grabbed a knife, found his wife in bed and stabbed her to death. He then went into his daughters’ bedroom, hugged and kissed them, and then murdered them as he begged for their forgiveness. Their lifeless bodies were discovered by Garcia’s uncle and cousin the following day, but Mejia-Ramos was nowhere to be found.

Garcia and her daughters (Facebook)

Garcia and her daughters (Facebook)

Three days later, police caught up with Mejia-Ramos in Schulenberg, Texas—a small town near the Mexican border—where he was presumably hoping to cross over and flee. Instead, he was transported back to New York and charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. If convicted—or should I say when he’s convicted—Mejia-Ramos could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Of course, it now seems as if these senseless killings could have been prevented… and it was the NYPD who failed to act. As it turns out, none of Garcia’s police reports were translated from Spanish to English, which means they were never reviewed and no action was ever taken to stop the domestic abuse that eventually led to her death and the deaths of her children.

“No one translated it and they just put it away or placed it into the system,” explained Roger Asmar, an attorney hired by Garcia’s family. “Three complaints were filed by Deisy, and none of the times she filed a complaint did police actually arrest Mr. Mejia. No one actually translated the text into English, so apparently no one looked into it.”

And now three innocent people are dead.

What is most bizarre about this situation—aside from the obvious bias against non-English speakers and the hypocrisy of referring to America as a “melting pot” while condemning foreigners who choose to come here (apparently forgetting it was foreigners who founded our great nation)—is the fact that the NYPD is equipped to handle language issues.

“The NYPD has more foreign-language-speaking officers than any police department in the country, including thousands of Spanish-speaking officers,” explained Nicholas Paolucci, a New York City Law Department spokesman. “Also, the NYPD has a corps of 19,000 members who can provide interpretation services in over 70 languages.”

Mejia-Ramos killed his wife and kids (Publinews)

Mejia-Ramos killed his wife and kids (Publinews)

Sadly, none of this helped Garcia or her daughters—two-year-old Daniela and one-year-old Yoselin. And even though NYPD officers are now being trained on how to translate and store incident reports in languages other than English, it’s definitely too little, too late for Garcia’s family.

“We’re thinking maybe we sue the police because this wasn’t just his [Mejia-Ramos’] fault, the authorities are also at fault,” Garcia’s mother said recently. “My daughter may be dead and can’t do anything in this case, but I want justice.”

I certainly hope she gets it, too. And with any luck, non-English-speaking people will get the consideration they deserve… and soon.

Posted on February 20, 2014, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. An issue has been identified; the possible bias against non-English speakers when dealing with government entities. Although this tragic incident had language miscommunication as a central element, it appears that this was more a result of bureaucratic incompetence than intended bias against non-English speakers. Note places in the article where details are provided about the police department’s available, but unused, resources. Focusing attention on a problem which can be fixed (bureaucratic incompetence) rather than on one very difficult to fix (bias) may help in decreasing the number of such unfortunate incidents. Based on this article, it appears as if the involved police department is attempting to make positive changes.

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