Community Groups Host Language-Access Forum As Implementation Date for New County Policy Nears



Daniel Altschuler (Make the Road New York):
Cheryl Keshner (Empire Justice Center):

Community Groups Host Language-Access Forum As Implementation Date for New County Policy Nears

HEMPSTEAD, NY — Residents and community advocates held a community forum on Thursday to discuss the need for language assistance services in Nassau County, what languages services should be provided by the county, and the status of implementation at county agencies.

Nearly one year ago, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano signed two executive orders to ensure translation and interpretation services for the county’s 130,000 limited-English-proficient residents at county agencies, effective July 30, 2014. On Thursday, community members and advocates learned what the County’s obligations are under the new policy, as well as hearing a presentation from Nassau County Police Chief Steven Skrynecki regarding his department’s efforts.

In addition to the police, other Nassau agencies which should provide language access by July 30th  include the Departments of Social Services, Health, Emergency Services, Youth, Veterans , Office for People with Disabilities and others.

Participants reflected on the importance of this new policy:

Beatriz Cruz, a member of Make the Road New York, said, “I went to the Department of Social Services and they didn’t want to speak to me in Spanish. They even had someone there who spoke Spanish, but he just told me I should go to school and learn English. I hope that in the future every county office will have someone who can speak my language."

Cheryl Keshner from the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition and the Empire Justice Center, said, “We’re counting on  County Executive Mangano to do the right thing by implementing language access at county agencies by July 30th. Limited English proficient victims of domestic violence needing police protection, people in need of emergency housing, and those in need of quality healthcare should not be made to wait any longer to gain access to these critical services.”

Delbys Torres, an organizer with La Fuente, said, "As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement,  we recognize that the struggle still continues. In that spirit, we look to Nassau County's implementation of the Language Access Executive Orders that will ensure that the civil rights of all residents regardless of language proficiency are protected. We hope this will serve as a model of effective and responsible governance for all the towns and villages within Nassau County."

Jason Starr, Director of the Nassau Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, “Equal access to government services, regardless of one’s level of English proficiency, is an important civil right. It is absolutely essential that the Mangano administration make good on their promise and fully implement the language access plan to ensure the safety, welfare, and economic vitality of all of Nassau County’s linguistically diverse residents.”

Steve McFarland, Coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, said, "Every member of our community deserves to receive government services in a language they understand. County Executive Mangano did the right thing in signing executive orders for language access one year ago. We’re waiting and counting on him to do the right thing today by ensuring all Nassau County agencies comply."

Gabriela Castillo, an attorney with SEPA Mujer, said, "Language access is critical for members of our nassau community.  Language barriers should never be the reason for someone going without crucial services.  It is important that we keep our community engaged in this topic and assure them that we will be their voice in pushing forward implementation of the Executive Order.”

Participating groups included the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition, Make the Road New York, the Long Island Civic Engagement TableSEPA Mujer, La Fuente-Long Island Civic Participation Project, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the Empire Justice Center.