the Language Barrier
From El Diario
December 23, 2003
By Maxy Sosa
Are you one of the thousands of New Yorkers who speak Spanish,
Creole, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, or Russian and need services from
the Humanitarian Recourses Administration of the city? Well now
you won’t have to worry anymore.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a law yesterday guaranteeing equal
access to services provided by the HRA for those who don’t
speak English but speak one of the six above-mentioned languages.
legislation, introduced two years ago in the city council by Democrat
John Liu, District 20, Queens, will end the troubles surrounding
2 million New Yorkers who don’t speak English and depend
on the help of agencies under the jurisdiction of the HRA, like
the Child Services Administration, the Department of Health and
Hygiene, and the Department of Abandoned Services [orphans].
legislation, known as Intro 38-A, establishes that said departments
must provide services of interpretation to those who solicit help,
and to have certain documents available in Spanish, Creole, Chinese,
Korean, Arabic, and Russian.
Putting the situation in perspective, the mayor explained in Spanish
the importance of the revision of this legislation for members
of the immigrant community, “the New Yorkers that don’t
speak English have faced many obstacles to get benefits services
they are eligible for.”
Adding that “Into 38-A attempts to increase access to those
city services for people who pay taxes and who fight for this country
but who have a limited ability with English.” Among the organizations
that participated in the negotiations of approving the legislation
are Make the Road by Walking, Unite, Coalition of Immigrants of
the City of New York, and the local 32BJ.
“To learn a difficult language is difficult, and is worse
if the preservation of the family, the security and health of their
or the capacity to preserve their home and maintain themselves
outside of the system depends on their English speaking capacity,” declared
Andrew Friedman, of Make the Road by Walking.
For his part, the
commissioner of the HRA, Verna Eggleston, recognized that the process
of negotiation is not always easy, but praised
the “perseverance of those who advise for the rights of immigrants
who were here at the doors of my building, trying to support the
law that today (yesterday) are here in order for the company of
the same one.”
The administration of the Human Recourse will
implement the project gradually during the next 5 years at a cost
of $5 million, which
will be including in the annual budget of the agency that reaches
billions of dollars. For the Dominican woman Barcilides Matos,
yesterday was historic, “at last we broke the language barrier,” she
exclaimed, seeing the mayor signing the law.
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Translated from Spanish by Charlotte