40 Languages Spoken Among Asylum Seekers with Pending MPP Cases
(26 Apr 2021) At least 40 different languages are spoken by the nearly 30,000 migrants with pending MPP cases according to case-by-case court data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. These include languages indigenous to Central America, such as Mam and K'iche', Quechua (which is spoken in regions of South America), and sign languages from Spanish-speaking parts of Latin America. Although indigenous and other rare languages make up a small number of pending MPP cases—just 337 out of 29,423—the need for language access presents unique challenges for both migrants and the Immigration Courts.

For this report, TRAC examined the language listed in the Immigration Court data for the 29,423 cases in MPP that were pending at the end of January 2021. See TRAC's previous report here. Out of these, 28,566 (97 percent) spoke Spanish and 498 (1.7 percent) spoke Portuguese. These two languages make up nearly 99 percent of all languages on record. Just 337 people—slightly more than one percent—were recorded as speaking another non-English language across Latin America and around the world. However, these comparatively small numbers of cases have received growing attention because not only do these migrants face additional barriers to applying for asylum, finding rare-language interpreters creates scheduling challenges for immigration judges.

Under the Biden administration, DHS has ended MPP and begun to admit asylum seekers into the United States who were originally excluded under the "Remain in Mexico" program. Based on TRAC's analysis of the 337 rare language speakers in MPP with pending cases in January, there does not appear to be any evidence thus far that rare language speakers were disproportionately unable to register and be paroled into the United States. A total of 70 have been permitted to enter the United States under the Biden administration, or 20.8 percent. This is higher than the average of 13.3 percent for all pending cases.

See the full report for a list of languages recorded for migrants with pending cases in the MPP program:

For related report on other characteristics of migrants with pending MPP cases, see:

To examine a variety of Immigration Court data, including asylum data, the backlog, MPP, and more now updated through March 2021, use TRAC's Immigration Court tools here:

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