Language access

Access to Indigenous languages

Changes in demographics in the last few years have shown an increasing number of Indigenous peoples of Latin America arriving at the border and asking for asylum. Although Census data shows increases as well, there are big levels of underreporting due to many factors including the way we collect data. Many Indigenous people identify themselves as “Hispanic or Latino” because they believe the American Indian or Alaskan Native category is reserved for those who officially belong to tribes (Giron.A., 2017). 

In Latin America, being part of a tribe or being considered American Indian varies by country and depends on many factors. A clear challenge, whether they are in their countries of origin or here in America, is the need for language access. With over 70 language families and 448 languages specifically, the linguistic diversity in Latin America is vast. 

Indigenous people from Latin America immigrate to the United States for many different reasons: mostly to work in rural settings in agricultural work, but also in the construction industry and other similar ones where the need for communication is low. However, being Limited English Proficient or even sometimes being Limited Spanish Proficient makes them a target for crime and vulnerable to gender-based violence. We have heard many cases in which language access is not afforded to these survivors, including those who arrive at the border to seek asylum because they are fleeing gender-based violence. 

Many Indigenous migrants go from ancestral lands to big cities/towns in their countries of origin, and others go directly into the US. It is this last group that encounters the most challenges: accessing and keeping jobs, lack of knowledge about their rights, victimization, among others. (Yescas, C. 2010).

To help, we have collected below resources and other materials that may help advocates identify speakers of Indigenous languages, provide them with the opportunity to tell their story in their own language, and facilitate equal access to safety, justice and healing.


How public health crisis like Covid-19 led to Indigenous immigrants connect to vital information in their language