Cuomo Calls for New Language Access Law

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Photo/Long Island Wins archives

In a report on Gov. Cuomo’s priorities released in conjunction with his State of the State speech last week, the governor comes out in favor of a new language-access law. There is a 2011 Executive Order from Cuomo requiring state agencies to translate documents into six languages and to provide interpretation services free of charge in any language. The translated documents must be available in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Haitian Creole, and
Bengali.

There are problems with the Executive Order. The first, of course, is that since it is not a law, it can be withdrawn by a future governor. The larger problem is identified by the governor’s report:

In the years since the Governor issued Executive
Order 26, however, the language access landscape around
New York State has changed and evolved. Some
jurisdictions, including New York City and Westchester
County, have enacted language access policies more
expansive than that provided by the State. In other areas
of the state, limited English proficient New Yorkers have
had trouble accessing public services provided by local
government entities – including entities, like many
Department of Motor Vehicle locations, that administer
State services. To address this issue and ensure that public
services are available to all New Yorkers regardless of their
level of English proficiency, Governor Cuomo will advance
legislation to codify and expand the mandate of Executive
Order 26.

The New York Immigration Coalition had already identified codification of Language Access as a major goal for 2020. Expect to hear more on this soon.


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