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| Expanding Opportunity in Suffolk County, Building an Immigrant Justice Initiative

Language access order faces hurdles in implementation

Epoch Times – August 5, 2013, by Genevieve Belmaker - New York State residents with limited English language proficiency still face problems with access to government services, according to a new study.

More than 2 million people in New York State have limited English proficiency (LEP), according to Make the Road New York (MRNY), an immigrant advocacy organization that has partnered with The Center for Popular Democracy to complete the study.

Despite the number of people with LEP and the 2011 executive order 26 issued by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo for better provision of services, they still face many barriers accessing services.

Cuomo’s order requires that all state agencies that have direct public contact translate vital documents into the state’s top six LEP languages. The order also requires that interpretation and transportation services be provided in native languages if needed. But the study found two years later, that requirement has still not been fully implemented.

“There’s a growing number of cases where they are asking people to bring someone [for interpretation],” said Cornelia Brown, founder and executive director of the Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters. “The one exception might be the Child Protective Services.”

Brown, who was speaking as part of a Monday, Aug. 5 conference call about the report, added that in many cases LEP people are asked to bring their own interpreters with no arrangement for reimbursement of any cost incurred.

In general, the report states that despite New York State’s indisputable position as a national leader in pro-immigrant policies, a “significant amount of work remains to be done to dismantle language barriers at government agencies that dispense key benefits and services.”

Some of the report’s key findings include that the majority of LEP New York State residents don’t get translated documents when trying to get access to state benefits and interpretation services. Despite the implementation shortfalls, most people who got translated materials or interpretation services said it was helpful.

To gather the data, MRNY and The Center for Popular Democracy worked with partner organizations across New York State starting in the spring of 2012 to survey LEP individuals in New York City, Long Island, Albany, Central New York and Buffalo.