Nassau Residents, Advocates Call on Legislators to Demand Compliance on Language Access

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Press Contacts:
Steve McFarland, 516-366-0259steve.mcfarland@maketheroadny.org
Martha Maffei, 631-980-2555mmaffei@sepamujer.org
Cheryl Keshner, (631) 650-2317, ckeshner@empirejustice.org


Nassau Residents, Advocates Call on Legislators to Demand Compliance on Language Access

With County Executive Mangano Failing to Implement his own Executive Orders, Advocates Move to Pressure Legislature to Demand Compliance


MINEOLA — Dozens of Nassau County immigrants and their allies spoke at the County Legislature hearing today, demanding leadership from County Legislators in securing compliance from County Executive Mangano’s administration with its own Executive Orders 67 and 72, issued in 2013 to guarantee language assistance services at county agencies to the estimated 130,000 Nassau County residents with limited English proficiency.

While these critical orders should have been fully implemented by July of 2014, the Mangano administration has not taken the necessary steps or invested the necessary resources to implement them. The result is that County government services remain largely inaccessible for the 130,000 Nassau County residents with limited English proficiency. Many of these people are elderly, disabled or newly arrived immigrants. Lack of language access endangers community members who need emergency assistance during a crisis and puts entire communities as risk.

Backed by two dozen supporters, five community members and advocates testified at the legislature, sharing experiences of being turned away from the Department of Social Services and the Nassau County police, including one incident which put a family's food stamp benefits at risk. Advocates shared that they had engaged in another round of compliance testing in recent weeks, and found appalling shortcomings, including county workers who laughed at or hung up on limited English proficient clients.

The coalition of community members and grassroots organizations asked Nassau legislators to sign a joint letter demanding action from the Nassau County Executive.

Steve McFarland, Coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, said, “In politics, it’s results that matter and the County Executive Ed Mangano has not delivered on his commitment to implement language access at county agencies, making sure that Nassau County works for all its residents. When interactions with the police and social services don’t have competent interpretation, this can be a life or death issue that affects constituents from Hicksville to Five Towns. It’s time for the Legislature to step up and demand action and demand results from Mr. Mangano.”

Cheryl Keshner, of the Empire Justice Center and Long Island Language Advocates Coalition, said, "Nassau County Executive Mangano has failed to follow through on numerous promises to provide interpretation  and translation  services at county agencies. These services are not only a county requirement, but also a federal requirement under Title Vi of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, We are here today to call upon the Nassau County legislature to uphold the law and to take a stand against national origin discrimination in Nassau County. "

Keiko Cervantes-Ospina, Supervising Attorney New York Legal Assistance Group, said, "Recently a client of ours was sanctioned by the Department of Social Services resulting in the loss of her food stamps after a meeting with DSS where she was not able to participate in a meaningful way because she was not provided adequate interpretation services.  We believe situations like this are avoidable.  Uniform compliance with language access Executive Orders across County agencies will ensure equitable access to programs and benefits. It needs to start with staff and personnel training and it needs to start now."

Helen Dorado Alessi, Chief Consultant for Long Beach Latino Civic Association, said, “Language access legislation is at the heart of true democracy. It enables our government to be transparent and accountable to th very people it’s mort important to. In Long Beach our city has collaborate with the LB Latino Civic Association and to plan a referendum being brought to the city council in the coming weeks. I call on Nassau County to follow the lead of our leaders in Long Beach.”

Victoria Daza, Organizer for Long Island Jobs with Justice, said, “As a county with a growing immigrant, population, Nassau County has the responsibility to provide language access to all its constituents. Failure to do so, would continue to make services unattainable for a large number of Nassau residents."

“The NYIC is committed to providing immigrant communities across the state of New York with the necessary tools to encourage integration and participation.” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "Language Access remains one of the most important issues to address in Nassau county. We are asking County Executive Ed Mangano to make sure executive orders 67 and 72 go into effect in the county agencies as soon as possible."

Gabriela Castillo, Staff Attorney for SEPA Mujer, said, “For immigrant victims of domestic violence, meaningful access to necessary services in a language they can understand is a necessity and can mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately,many pleas may go unanswered if such services are not being adequately provided. We have seen too many times how the system can fail a victim attempting to leave a dangerous situation. By not implementing an Executive Order signed into place to provide for such protections, Nassau County is failing our community and our families. We need affirmative and concrete steps to ensure the FULL implementation of this Executive Order. Anything else is simply unacceptable and is playing with the lives of many of Nassau County’s most vulnerable populations.”

Rev. Ken Graham, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church USA, testified, “The Presbyterian Church prides itself on its efforts to welcome strangers in its midst. We call on the county to share in this commitment, to providing full language accessibility. Together, we must make Nassau County a place we are all proud of, and all may continue to live in and contribute to.”

Amal Wahib, Board Member of the Domestic Harmony Foundation, said, “Immigrant and Limited English Proficient Long Islanders have been waiting for action on language acccess, but at social services and shelters across the county, they are being left out to dry. The County owes its residents language access plans, competent services, and real action. At the very least, Nassau owes its residents respect, but many clients do not even receive that. These are our tax dollars, and the lack of action is ridiculous. It’s time for action.”