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

We Made History!

MRNY members leading the struggle for equal access since 1999.

On October 6, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order that requires all New York State agencies to ensure access to all of their programmatic services through the provision of interpretation and translation services.  

This Executive Order is the first of its kind in the United States, and a major commitment by New York State government to ensure equal treatment for millions of New Yorkers who are still in the process of learning English. 


The Executive Order is the direct result of work done by Make the Road New York, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, the New York Immigration Coalition, Legal Services of New York City, and many other ally organizations.


Highlights of the Executive Order

Under the provisions of the Order, all state agencies will:

  • Translate essential public documents and forms into the top six languages spoken in New York State;
  • Provide interpretation services to all limited English proficient New Yorkers;
  • Designate a language access coordinator and draft plans for complying with this Executive Order in the next 90 days; and 
  • Provide the Governor’s office with annual reports detailing their compliance with the Executive Order.

More than a Decade of Work Pays Off

For over twelve years, courageous immigrant activists and organizers have laid the groundwork for this landmark victory by continually drawing public attention to the need for language access at public agencies, public and private hospitals, and pharmacies.


It began in 1999 when Make the Road New York and the NY Immigration Coalition filed a Federal Civil Rights complaint against the City of New York for its failure to provide language access in the welfare system. We won this civil rights complaint, and a subsequent federal lawsuit on this issue, Ramirez v. Giuliani.


We organized dozens of direct actions over the next four years including a thousand-person march over the Brooklyn Bridge calling for improved language access.


As a result, in 2003, Local Law 78 was signed into law, requiring language access at the Human Resources Administration, ensuring equal access to vital government benefits like Medicaid, Food Stamps and public assistance.


Inspired by those victories, immigrant parents stood up and said that in order for our children to succeed, parents need to be able to read their report cards and communicate with their teachers. Immigrant parents delivered hundreds of report cards, written only in English, to the Department of Education, requesting translation. In 2006, after two years of petitions, press conferences and surveys, we were able to secure Chancellor’s Regulations guaranteeing language access in the city’s school system.


Soon after, Make the Road New York and our coalition allies won improved language access at all New York State hospitals, and won the support of Mayor Bloomberg for an Executive Order for New York City that required comprehensive language access services at all NYC agencies. We then won landmark legislation requiring that all chain pharmacies in New York City provide translation and interpretation services.


Today, we celebrate yet another historic victory.   


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.


¡Si se puede!