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No More Lives Lost in Translation? New LI Language Policy

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November 15, 2013

NEW YORK - A new policy that requires interpretation and translation for vital public services in key languages is now in effect in Suffolk County, covering central and eastern Long Island.

According to Karina Claudio, lead organizer for the group "Make the Road New York," the policy for non-English-speaking residents of the area went into effect Thursday, and she believes it will likely end up saving lives on Long Island.

"When immigrant women are reporting domestic violence incidents to the police, sometimes it's even a difference between life and death," she declared. "So, it's making the county a more welcoming place for immigrants, and a safer place for immigrants."

Under the policy, Suffolk County must translate vital public documents and provide translation services in the six languages most common to the local community. The Long Island Language Advocates Coalition is holding a conference today in Central Islip to help non-English speakers get the assistance they need.

Cheryl Keshner, senior paralegal and community advocate, Empire Justice Center and coordinator for Long Island Language Advocates Coalition (LILAC), said today's conference is geared to helping policymakers and advocates reach out to non-English-speakers on Long Island in their native language.

"We're addressing a lot of different issues, ranging from immigration to voting rights, to social services, to helping families with children with special needs," she said.

Keshner stated that Nassau County, just to the west of Suffolk, will enact a similar policy next summer.

"It's really for all of our benefit, because if somebody can report a crime, it makes us, our communities, safer," she said. "If someone can get the health care that they need, it makes us all healthier."

She said the Empire Justice Center won these changes along with Make the Road New York, Sepa Mujer, the Long Island Civic Engagement Table and the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition.

More on today's conference is at LongIslandLanguageAdvocates.org.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY