Mam is one of 23 Amerindian dialects in Guatemala, along with Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Garifuna and Xinca. It’s also a muy grande headache for Hamilton County.
When an illegal immigrant from Guatemala was charged with sexual battery and rape, Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker had to bring in two interpreters to translate English and courtroom lawyer Latin to Spanish, then translate the Spanish to Mam.
Even a few years ago, interpreters were rare in his courtroom, Dinkelacker said. “Now it’s every couple of weeks. We’re being inundated.”
Translators have been hired for Russian, French, Hindi and Fulani, a dialect in Guinea. But 70 percent of the demand is Spanish, said Pretrial Services Director Wendy Niehaus, who assigns translators.
Last year, that cost $153,500. This year, translator bills will hit $200,000. Gillen’s plan will save $35,000 a year, he hopes.
In dollars, $200,000 is not Quiche. But it’s only a small down payment on the costs of illegal immigration.