Across New York, members of MRNY celebrate another critical civil rights victory for immigrants.
On November 14, 2012, Long Island’s Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed an Executive Order that requires all County agencies to provide translation and interpretation, ensuring equal access to services for more than 100,000 Long Islanders who are not yet proficient in English.
This makes Suffolk County the first suburban county in the U.S. to enact such a progressive language access policy. While Suffolk County has suffered from over a decade of anti-immigrant politicking, today County Executive Bellone has demonstrated that we can turn away from the politics of division and embrace policies that welcome and value all residents — regardless of the country from which they hail and the language that they speak.
The Executive Order is the direct result of work done by Make the Road New York, the Long Island Civic Engagement Table (the coalition we created with allied organizations to increase civic participation among working-class people of color on Long Island), New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition, and the Center for Popular Democracy.
And all this in our first year working on Long Island!
Under the provisions of the Order, all County agencies will:
- Translate essential public documents and forms into the County’s top six languages.
- Provide interpretation services to all Suffolk residents with limited English proficiency.
- Designate a language access coordinator and provide the County Executive’s office with annual reports to ensure compliance.
The order also prohibits county agencies from discriminating based on language ability or sharing a person’s immigration status or other confidential information — taking a great step forward to renew the trust between immigrants and government agencies, especially the police.
On behalf of MRNY’s members who have been working for equal access for more than 12 years, we thank County Executive Bellone for his leadership.
As we know, change takes courage, and we celebrate those who stand up for the rights and needs of immigrants everywhere.