Westchester County Signs Landmark Language Access Executive Order Into Law

County Exec George Latimer signs executive order requiring official documents are accessible in 9 additional languages

WESTCHESTER, NY – Today County Executive George Latimer signed an executive order requiring official documents be accessible in nine additional languages, in an effort to expand language access for Westchester’s growing immigrant communities. The New York Immigration Coalition and its member organizations joined County Executive Latimer and local officials for a press conference in celebration.

Languages in the executive order include Spanish, Italian, Chinese, French (including Haitian Creole), Arabic, Tagalog, Japanese, Albanian, and Portuguese.

"Nearly 30% of Westchester County residents have limited English proficiency, which creates serious challenges when it comes to access to programs that promote the safety, health and economic success of all who call Westchester home. This action will help overcome those barriers and allow our neighbors continue to thrive right here in our backyard. Almost every single Westchester resident can trace their lineage back to a time when their ancestors were immigrants, this Executive Order aims to not close the door behind us," said Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

“For the past fifteen years, we have worked with partners to successfully expand language access in New York City, New York State, Suffolk and Nassau Counties, and are proud to add Westchester County to that growing list. Breaking down language barriers is a critical first step towards building trust between local government and the communities they serve. We applaud County Executive George Latimer for his leadership and vision, and pledge to work closely with the County Executive for a smooth implementation of this historic step,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“How does a person thrive when they can't access the rules, regulations and other protocols to receive the benefits and services they deserve? The public safety, health, economic prosperity, and general welfare of all Westchester County residents are at stake when language is a barrier.  The Language Access Executive Order will allow our fellow Westchester residents to fully participate as the valuable members of our community that they are. Neighbors Link applauds the County Executive for recognizing the vital importance of language access to the benefit of all of us,” said Carola Otero Bracco, Executive Director of Neighbors Link.

“This an important moment in Westchester County’s history as language access is critical for the sizable immigrant and Limited-English Proficiency population in Westchester County. Access to known language makes a significant difference in important life decisions. We applaud County Executive, George Latimer’s support of this executive order and look forward to partnering with the county on implementation,” said Jirandy Martinez, Executive Director of the Community Resource Center of New York.

“Hudson Valley Justice Center supports this executive order, which helps those in need overcome language barriers and gain access to vital services that can keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables,” said Virginia Foulkrod, Esq., Executive Director of Hudson Valley Justice Center.

"Westchester County has long been home to varied immigrant populations. According to recent statistics, the Lower Hudson Valley is one of the most racially diverse regions in the country. The signing of the Executive Order on Language Access by County Executive Latimer will move us closer to assuring that all voices are heard and understood in Westchester County. The values of diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial to building healthy communities," said Sister Susan Gardella, RSHM LIFE Center.

“Westchester is a multi-ethnic county.  We are glad that the Westchester County finally agrees to provide much-needed language access to its residents,” said William Kaung, Vice President of Advocacy at OCA-WHV.

“Westchester county is a diverse district with speakers of many different languages.  At Catholic Charities we work to provide services to clients from all backgrounds and feel that language should not be a barrier.  This law helps ensure effective communication with the public, and will help both Westchester County and our agency improve lives in our local community,” said Esmeralda Hoscoy, Director of Catholic Charities.

Background

Westchester County is home to about 250,000 immigrants, the 5th largest immigrant population in New York State and the largest outside of New York City. Almost 30% of Westchester County residents are limited-English-proficient (LEP). 302,054 of Westchester’s citizens are speakers of a non-English language – higher than the national average of 21.6%.

Since 2011, the New York Immigration Coalition has advocated to expand language access across New York State. Similar to that of Westchester County, executive orders have been successfully implemented in Nassau and Suffolk counties, New York City, and at the state level.

Language barriers can prevent people from fully participating in civic and public life. People whose proficiency in English is limited may not be able to use public services, communicate their point of view or understand information an agency wants the public to know. Enabling people to use their own language when it is feasible increases government efficiency, and ensures the flow of information between public agencies and residents that is vital to effective community-building.

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Need legal assistance?

Call the NYS Immigration Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 or view our directory of service providers here