With a reputation as "the International Capital of the World" comes a
responsibility on city government to ensure equal access to basic
human services for all residents. New York City's Equal Access to
Human Services Act, led by Councilmember John Liu, is an example of
modern-day civil rights legislation that opens up municipal government
to be more responsive without discriminating based on language
ability, and should serve as a model to localities across the country.
Please see below recent news excerpts.
Office of Councilmember John C. Liu
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: "New York lawmakers spearhead efforts to educate
immigrants" - 7/23/09
EXCERPT - Two New York lawmakers are spearheading efforts in
Washington to empower immigrants to learn English, thereby boosting
the ailing economy. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Yvette
Clarke (D-Brooklyn) unveiled a bill Monday for more funding to teach
immigrants English, U.S. history and civics.
"We would be remiss if we miss this opportunity to utilize every
breathing living person amongst us - to bring them up to optimum
productivity," Clarke said of giving immigrants a chance to get a firm
grasp of the language.
Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and Councilman John
Liu (D-Flushing) said they support the bill. "This is common-sense
legislation," Liu said. With the economy flailing, "this is precisely
the time when we should be boosting as many people skills as
"We need to give parents, family members and business owners the
opportunity," Ferreras said. "And this country can very well afford
NY1: "Welfare Denial Claims Fuel City Lawsuit" - 8/11/09
EXCERPT - Queens Councilman John Liu was the original sponsor of a
local law mandating HRA centers provide translation and interpretation
services for all of its clients. "The issue is simple," Liu said.
"People are learning English but before they are fluent in English
they still need basic city services."
NEW YORK TIMES: "Welfare Agency Is Sued Over Translation Service" - 8/11/09
EXCERPT - A 2003 city law, the Equal Access to Human Services Act,
passed after initial resistance from the Bloomberg administration,
gave city agencies five years to phase in comprehensive translation
services, supplied by phone or in person. In addition, it required
that city forms had to be made available in six main languages:
Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian and Spanish.
John C. Liu, a Democratic councilman from Queens and immigrant from
Taiwan who was a sponsor of the 2003 bill, said he understood the
difficulty of navigating American society. “I remember ever since I
was in grade school, I have been my mom’s primary interpreter.” At the
news conference announcing the lawsuit, he added, “New York City, the
international capital of the world, should not discriminate against
New Yorkers who do not speak English well.”
WBAI 99.5FM RADIO: WBAI 6PM Evening News - 8/12/09
EXCERPT - Filed by Legal Services of New York, the lawsuit accuses the
city of widespread civil rights violations because, five years after
Mayor Bloomberg signed the landmark civil rights law -- Local Law 73,
ensuring equal access to all Human Resources Administration services
-- HRA has failed to comply.
Councilmember John Liu from Queens 20th district was the primary
sponsor of Local Law 73. "We are an international capital of the world
and we need to recognize that New Yorkers come from every place on
this planet, speaking all different languages. That's why I got the
law five years ago that required key city agencies, like HRA, to
provide services without discriminating against New Yorkers who don't
speak English well. It's required by the law that this service has to
be given to the people."
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