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Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Immigration
Type: Event

Historic Statewide Language Access Order Takes Effect

Great news! Beginning this week, New York State is taking a great leap forward to meet the needs of our country’s growing immigrant population. Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 26, which has just come into effect, now requires all State agencies offering direct services to the public to provide comprehensive translation and interpretation for New Yorkers with limited English proficiency. 

The first of its kind in the United States, this Executive Order is a major civil rights victory for the 2.5 million New Yorkers who are still in the process of learning English and a major accomplishment for the thousands of MRNY members who have advocated for equal access to services for over 12 years.

Starting now, immigrants no longer have to face fear or confusion when trying to navigate often complex State government forms and systems in a language they do not understand in order to meet vital needs for their families, — like securing an ID card, launching a small business, or disputing a rent increase. 

Significantly, 22% of New Yorkers statewide were born outside of the U.S., nearly 30% speak a language at home other than English, and immigrants make up over 27% of our state’s workforce, according to Census data. In New York City, immigrants make up more than one-third of the population and almost half of the workforce. 

MRNY and our partners have worked to guarantee equal access to services for these substantial populations, first winning comprehensive language access laws in NYC public benefits offices, city and state hospitals, at major chain pharmacies statewide, and in all NYC government agencies.

MRNY member Aida Torres
“No matter where you came from you should have the same rights,” Aida says, “and that includes making sure government services do not discriminate by language.”

MRNY member Aida Torres has been at the forefront of the movement for translation and interpretation in New York, advocating with her fellow MRNY members to win these major reforms. A mother of three daughters (two of whom have special needs), Aida has had difficulty accessing services at government offices, communicating with hospital staff, and interpreting instructions on medications at the pharmacy.

Now, having helped to win the new state-level Executive Order, Aida’s dreams for a more equitable New York are becoming further realized.“Now, when I went to the DMV to get my ID card, I was able to talk to the staff in Spanish. Having all state agencies accessible in multiple languages is going to go far to improve lives for immigrants. It is a huge step forward for all of us.”

In sharp contrast to the xenophobic policies being adopted in states like Alabama, Make the Road NY is helping to create a New York that is a shining example of a state that welcomes and celebrates immigrants. 

Thank you to our partners, the Center for Popular Democracy, Legal Services NYC, MinKwon Center for Community Action, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and the New York Immigration Coalition, without which this victory could never have been achieved.

And many thanks to our supporters and members like you who make our work possible!