New York—Today, the New York State Senate passed the Language Access Expansion Act (S.3383-A Kennedy) with a vote of 47-15 and bipartisan support. Enactment of a Language Access Expansion Act would bring New York closer to ensuring that non-English speaking communities throughout the State have the same access to public services and information as English-speaking individuals. Now, it’s up to the Assembly (A.7235 De Los Santos) to move the bill forward.
The bill would expand the New York State Language Access Act to ensure all state agencies and departments under the State’s policy are covered, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Education. It would also direct local offices of State agencies and departments to provide translation and interpretation services in three additional languages spoken in a regional area, and require a biennial assessment to update the statewide list of covered languages.
"These last few years have only magnified the disparities that exist within our communities, including within immigrant, refugee, and non-native English speaking populations. A large part of those inequities are attributed to a lack of effective communication and dissemination of information, and I'm proud to have collaborated with the New York Immigration Coalition to address these gaps head on through this legislation," said Senator Tim Kennedy, District 63, the bill's sponsor. "By expanding language access here in New York, we're leveling the playing field and prioritizing the accessibility of essential resources to anyone who may need them. I thank Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the NYIC, and the many other advocates who joined us in championing this important reform and helped us move it across the finish line in the Senate."
“Lack of language access is one of the biggest challenges our immigrant neighbors face in receiving essential services from New York State. Passing the Language Access Expansion Act will bring New York State a step closer in making sure that everyone who lives here is equally able to access and benefit from the critical information our government institutions provide its constituents—whether it’s information about enrolling children in public school or resources on how to apply for a driver’s license. We applaud the NYS Senate and our champion Senator Tim Kennedy in passing this important piece of legislation. We now call on their colleagues in the NYS Assembly to pass the bill as well, and for Governor Kathy Hochul to sign it into law before the legislative session ends. This is a common sense bill that ensures that the State government works for all its people,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.
"I'd like to thank Senator Kennedy and the Senate for moving forward on such an important piece of the puzzle for New Yorkers," said Robert Agyemang, New York Director of African Communities Together. "Language Access, and specifically having access to vital information that has a sizable impact on someone's livelihood and life in a language they are most familiar with, allows that person to have all the necessary information to make critical decisions. For far too long, New York state has picked and chosen who is allowed to have access. Language Access is information access. Information access is the pathway for better opportunities, and a better way of life. ACT will continue to stand with the many community leaders, community organizations and supporters on the forefront of Language Access, because they are the true champions of equality."
“We applaud the expansion of language access to our many diverse communities throughout New York State,” said Cheryl Keshner, Empire Justice Center and the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition. “Language access is a human right. Improving accessibility to state agencies and their subdivisions not only benefits immigrants, but is fundamental to everyone’s safety and well-being.”
"Passing this bill is a positive step towards incorporating the predominantly spoken regional languages. This will assist refugees and immigrants in accessing services more easily, eliminating the fear of language barriers," said Regine Ndanga, LMSW, Partnership for the Public Good.