In a landmark announcement Tuesday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared that all 100 city agencies that serve the general public are now required to translate key documents and provide interpretation for the city’s millions of immigrant residents in the top six languages spoken by New Yorkers.
The new policy, outlined in Executive Order 120, reflects the linguistic diversity of New York, where half of city residents speak a language other than English at home. Now communicating to residents in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian, and French Creole will be given the same priority as English. The new citywide policy is expected to assist the nearly 1 in 4 New Yorkers who have a limited ability to read, write or speak English with accessing city services.
What’s more, the announcement of Executive Order 120 spins the government requirements as a matter of customer service and government accountability. The new policy mandates the creation of a new Customer Service Group, housed within the Mayor’s Office of Operations, to help city agencies figure out how to make sure their services and programs are reaching immigrant New Yorkers.
The announcement establishes New York City at the forefront of policymaking efforts to encourage immigrants to access government services. It also provides a stark contrast to the reinvigorated local initiatives that seek to declare English the sole language for signs and services. Many cities and states are also increasingly opposed to policies that help immigrants access government services, even if they are legally eligible for them.