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Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Immigration
Type: Pubs & Reports

Lost in Translation I

About this Report:

In October of 1999, the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Health and Human Services issued a Letter of Findings that condemned widespread civil rights abuses within New York City’s Human Resources Administration (HRA). The Letter of Findings stated that:

1. Within HRA, limited-English proficient (LEP) welfare claimants were "denied language interpreter assistance during visits to public assistance offices;"

2. "Bilingual staff resources were insufficient" to serve LEP clientele; and

3. "The lack of adequate translation or interpreter services imposes significant barriers" on applicants and recipients of Public Assistance.

Almost two years later, Make the Road by Walking and the New York Immigration Coalition investigated whether or not city and state administrators had managed to correct the civil rights violations identified by the federal government at HRA.

From April to August of 2001, Spanish and Creole speaking members of Make the Road by Walking visited eight Public Assistance offices throughout New York City and interviewed 220 LEP welfare applicants and recipients. The results of those interviews are summarized in this report, along with recommendations moving forward.