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New York State Language Access Coalition Celebrates the Implementation of Governor Cuomo’s Statewide Language Access Policy

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
New York City  (Thursday, October 4, 2012)

New York State Language Access Coalition Celebrates the Implementation of Governor Cuomo’s Statewide Language Access Policy

2.5 Million Limited English Proficient New Yorkers Will Now Receive Language Services at State Agencies

Advocates Will Hold Telephonic Press Conference to Answer Questions on This Important Policy

Immigrants around the State of New York are celebrating today as Governor Cuomo’s landmark Executive Order No. 26 goes into effect. This Executive Order will ensure that limited-English-proficient (LEP) individuals are able to obtain translation and interpretation services at State agencies such as the Department of Health, Office of Victim Services, and the State Police, among many others.

The Executive Order, signed by Governor Cuomo on October 6, 2011, was advocated for by the New York State Language Access Coalition, a coalition of immigrant advocacy and civil rights groups including the Center for Popular Democracy, Legal Services NYC, Make the Road New York, MinKwon Center for Community Action, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and the New York Immigration Coalition.

Advocates say that state agencies can have a big impact on the lives of regular community members. Agencies covered under the Order include the agencies New Yorkers go to for important things like registering a car or challenging a rent increase.
“Our offices have handled multiple cases of people who had tried to access vital government services only to be left in the dark by the lack of language services at various agencies. Today, the government has set in motion real change,” said Amy Taylor of Legal Services NYC.

“State agencies play a big role in the lives of New Yorkers. Not understanding that your rent will increase or that you will be losing health benefits because notices are not translated can be a big problem for a family,” said Brittny Saunders of the Center for Popular Democracy.

The Executive Order calls for state agencies that interact with the public to translate vital documents into the top six non-English languages spoken by LEP New Yorkers and to provide interpretation services in any language. The Order also requires these state agencies to assign a Language Access Coordinator, who will be responsible for implementing language access plans in their agencies.

“The creation and implementation of language access plans for each agency is a tremendous victory for Korean, Asian, and immigrant communities,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action. “We trust that today is the start of a new experience for millions of New Yorkers who have struggled to access vital government services.”

“This Executive Order is very significant, not only because it is a statewide order that will increase access to government services to thousands of New Yorkers, but also because it comes at a time when immigrants are under attack. The Governor’s leadership on language access should be an example for states around the country,” said Theo Oshiro, Deputy Director of Make the Road New York.

“New Yorkers should be proud to be leading the way in making state agencies accessible to all residents, regardless of the language they speak,” said Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “New Yorkers are known to be great talkers; now, with EO26, we have a government that hears us and speaks our language(s).”

Advocates say that there is a misconception that LEP New Yorkers only live in New York City. This statewide Executive Order will assist New Yorkers in upstate areas where large numbers of immigrants also reside. “Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters strongly supports NY State Executive Order No. 26,” said Cornelia Brown, founder of the organization, which works with LEP populations in Albany, Syracuse and Utica. “A language access policy brings many benefits, improving public safety, public health, economic prosperity, and the general welfare of New York State’s markedly diverse population,” added Brown.

Advocates also note that language access is a civil rights issue and highlight New York State’s leadership. “Today, Governor Cuomo reinforces New York’s place as a leader in Civil Rights,” said Katherine Terenzi, Taconic Policy Fellow of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “The Executive Order adds an additional safeguard for the rights of LEP New Yorkers.”

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About The New York State Language Access Coalition
The New York State Language Access Coalition is a coalition of immigrant advocacy and civil rights groups including the Center for Popular Democracy, Legal Services NYC, Make the Road New York, MinKwon Center for Community Action, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and the New York Immigration Coalition. The coalition advocates for policies to ensure that all individuals, regardless of the language they speak, receive equal access to important government programs and services.

 

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