Tag Archives: Long Island

Community and Advocacy Groups Commend Nassau County Executive Orders Guaranteeing Translation and Interpretation Services to Nassau Residents

See below—and congrats to Shena, Jenn, and Kate for their hard work!

Mineola, NY – In an important step towards ensuring good government in Nassau County, County Executive Ed Mangano signed a second of two Executive Orders today guaranteeing translation and interpretation services to all limited-English proficient (LEP) residents in their interactions with County Government. Recent emergency and relief efforts have brought into stark relief the importance of the county agencies being able to communicate effectively and efficiently with all Nassau County residents, including the more than 130,000 county residents with limited ability to read, write, or speak English.

The two Nassau County Executive Orders (numbers 67 and 72) align Nassau County with Suffolk County and New York State’s similar executive orders in 2011 and 2012 that guaranteed such language assistance services, and make Nassau one of the first suburban counties in the United States to enact a comprehensive language access policy.  These Orders will bring significant public safety gains to the county and improve all agencies’ ability to interact with Nassau’s diverse population.  Under the provisions of the Order, all county agencies will, among other things, be required to:

  • Translate essential public documents and forms into the top six languages spoken by LEP residents of Nassau County—namely, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Persian, Korean, and French Creole
  • Provide interpretation services to all LEP Nassau residents;
  • Designate a language access coordinator and draft plans for complying with this Executive Order in the next 120 days; and
  • Refrain from using language access services use as a basis for inquiring about, or sharing, immigration status.

Representatives of various organizations that have worked with the County to ensure improved language access services and achieve these Executive Orders cheered the signing and expressed their commitment to working with the County to ensure effective implementation:

Maria Cordoba, a member of Make the Road New York and Westbury resident, said, “I recently went to the County Department of Social Services, and finding out that no one in the staff spoke Spanish, I had to leave without being served. Make the Road New York is excited about these two orders and the commitment they demonstrate to limited-English proficient residents.”

Cheryl Keshner, coordinator of Long Island Language Advocates Coalition and senior paralegal at the Empire Justice Center, stated: “We applaud the signing of these executive orders. As evidenced by Hurricane Sandy, it is essential that all members of our community have equal and timely access to government services, especially during times of crisis.”

Daniel Altschuler, Coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, affirmed “These two Executive Orders together are critical for ensuring good government in Nassau County. We are thrilled that Nassau will now become one of the first suburban counties in the United States to guarantee language access in county agencies, and we look forward to continuing to work with the County administration to ensure effective implementation.”

Shena Elrington, Director of Health Justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, said: “The signing of these two executive orders marks a civil rights victory for limited English proficient residents of Nassau County, who will now be able to meaningfully access government services. These EOs reflect a commitment to ensuring access for every resident, regardless of the language he or she speaks.”

“Today Nassau County joins a growing movement in New York and across the country to break down language barriers between immigrant communities and their local governments,” said Nisha Agarwal, Deputy Director at the Center for Popular Democracy. “These executive orders will make it possible for residents with limited English proficiency to access the services they need to take care of themselves and their families, and will help create a healthier, safer, more economically robust Nassau county for all.”

“Today, Nassau County takes an important step forward in ensuring equal access to critical services such as police and emergency assistance, medical care, and important information such as public health and safety notices,” said Jason Starr, Director of the Nassau County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union.  “These orders celebrate both the linguistic and cultural diversity that make our community special and the spirit of tolerance and diversity embodied in the Constitution.”

Martha Maffei, Executive Director at Services for the Advancement of Women (SEPA Mujer) stated “In my daily work with immigrant women escaping domestic abuse, language access is crucial for women who are seeking services for themselves, as well as for their families. I congratulate Nassau County for providing the tool that victims of domestic violence need to look forward in their lives.”

“As Nassau County becomes more and more diverse, these Executive Orders will help ensure that all of our residents have access to important services, and can participate in community life,” said Anita Halasz, Organizer with Long Island Jobs with Justice.

Delbys Torres, member organizer for La Fuente and resident of Freeport said, “We applaud Nassau County for committing to provide access to language services to thousands of residents in all county interactions, not just in a select few. We encourage them to continue to find ways of ensuring that Nassau County is a place who provides equal opportunity and access to services regardless of language barriers. It is a great day when government goes beyond what is legal under the law, but what is just and critical to ensure that our government is truly democratic and open to all.”

“These orders will assure that all parents are better informed about available services and, in turn, how to help their children succeed,” said Johanna Rotta, Coordinator of Community Assets at the Early Years Institute.

“The Nassau County Language Access Executive Orders will help Limited-English Proficient consumers with disabilities to have a better quality of life, to live more independently and to participate more in their community,” said Grisselle Rivera-Mucciolo, Director of Hispanic Outreach at the Long Island Center for Independent Living.

Read more here. The official press release can be found here.

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Filed under immigrant health, immigrant rights, know your rights, language access, Uncategorized

The Hypocrite’s Oath: Latino Immigrants and Health Access in the Hamptons

This post, by Health Justice Director Nisha Agarwal, first appeared on the Race-Talk.org blog and is also available on Huffington Post.

Like many New Yorkers did this summer, I boarded a Hampton Jitney from the east side of Manhattan in late August and made my way to the finger tips of Long Island.  Instead of landing on the beach, however, I found myself in the crowded office of a small community-based organization bursting with children and parents, canned goods and clothing swaps, and the bilingual chatter of Latino immigrants seeking help for any number of different problems.  I was with a colleague, and we were there to meet a client.  Here is her story:

In late July, Laura was rushed to the emergency room of a local Hamptons hospital due to severe stomach pains.  She is only a teenager, undocumented, uninsured, and uncomfortable speaking anything but Spanish to discuss complicated health matters.  After some ten hours spent unattended on a hospital gurney, Laura was finally seen by a surgeon the following morning.  No one explained to her, in a language she could understand, why her stomach was on fire or why she was about to receive an operation.  Turns out it was appendicitis.

Laura was admitted to the hospital for 24 hours after her surgery and then summarily discharged, even though she was still in pain.  No one talked to her about a discharge plan or explained self-care strategies to use in the wake of her operation.  All she knew, through the help of family members advocating on her behalf, was that there was still a drainage tube in her body, and she would have to go to her surgeon’s private office to have it removed.

At this private office, Laura was told that she would have to pay $1500 upfront to extricate the tube, and if she didn’t pay it they couldn’t do the procedure for her.  The emergency room of the hospital where she was originally treated, and to which she returned after this extortionate demand, also refused to remove the tube, insisting again that she go to the surgeon’s private office.  Her fear mounting, Laura turned to her primary care physician and the local community group for help.  Together they advocated with the hospital and the surgeon to have the fee for the tube removal reduced to $300.

Sitting in the surgeon’s waiting for the second time, Laura and her family were subjected to a verbal assault by the physician who initially treated her.  She was the reason he and his assistant had to get up in the middle of the night to come to the ER and operate, he shouted.  She was ungrateful for the fact that he wasn’t getting paid for the services he was providing to her.  Oh, and he also wanted to know—in front of all of the other patients in the waiting room—was she in the country legally or illegally? Only after his anger was vented did the surgeon remove the drainage tube from Laura’s body, but as a parting gift, he also reneged on their payment arrangement and billed her $5000.

As a civil rights-oriented health care lawyer in New York City, I thought I knew what racial and ethnic disparities in health care looked like, and how they manifested themselves.  But Laura’s case surprised even me.  Here we had potential violations of federal and state discharge planning laws, language access regulations, patient dumping statutes and financial assistance laws, not to mention flagrant disregard for the medical profession’s codes of conduct and a whiff of fraud and consumer protection violations.

What is more, hers is potentially not the only story of its kind.  In our interview, Laura’s sister mentioned another family member who had been turned away from the emergency room of the same Hamptons-area hospital.  The director of the community-based group where we were conducting the interview also knew of a similar case.  To her, the mistreatment was targeted toward a specific patient population.  As an Irish-Catholic nun, she noted, she had little problem accessing high-quality, respectful care from the same surgeon who treated Laura.  However, the same was not true for the low-income Latino/a residents of the community whom she served.

Since meeting with Laura, I have wondered how cases like her come into being.  What are the factors that allow doctors—people who have pledged to do no harm—to exhibit openly hate and bias, to take actions that actually threaten the lives and well-being of some category of their patients?  What are the dynamics that make it acceptable for immigrant patients seeking relief from pain and illness to be turned away from their local houses of healing?  How does this happen in a place known to be the summer playground of New York’s financial and cultural elite?  Do the Haves not have enough?

As has been mentioned previously on this blog, this has been a long, hot summer of hate and injustice against Latinos and immigrants, and I can’t help but think that the vitriol spewed into our airwaves is creating a space—a social sanction—for overt acts of harm.  After all, Long Island is the place that anti-immigrant provocateur Steve Levy calls home, and whose blistering comments against the undocumented are only the most public example of the kind of anger that led to Marcelo Lucero’s brutal murder two years ago this fall.  Levy and others like him have also complained that Mexican “anchor babies” are the reasons hospitals on Long Island are in financial distress.  It should come as little surprise to us, then, that some physicians at these very hospitals have adopted a hostile attitude toward those patients that they see as a threat.

As a health care advocate, I have to be attuned to these broader dynamics around race and immigration, for they are directly impacting the clients I serve.  And, as racial justice activists, we all have to be vigilant of the many manifestations of hate – not only in the extreme examples of violent crimes and assaults, but also the quiet, painful attacks that take place in our schools, workplaces and hospitals.

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Filed under immigrant health, immigrant rights, language access