SEPA Mujer is a fiscal sponsor and co-founder of the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition (LILAC). This coalition has focused on the implementation and extension of language accessibility in order to protect people’s fundamental rights under the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. LILAC has historically concentrated on the full implementation of the county executive order that stated all county agencies (Law Enforcement, DSS, etc) must provide language access by interpreters, bilingual staff assistance, or translation of vital documents. Since then after hearing many complaints in the community about lack of consistency, negligence, discrimination, even harassment, LILAC concentrated efforts on testing. This testing has proved fundamental to bring forward larger issues on discrimination and racism from our county agencies employers and the full and adequate implementation and oversight language access plans require.
In 2018, SEPA Mujer’s testing results shook local county government and media and helped push forward then Legislator Monica Martinez Resolution #1033 to pass into law. This resolution codified the existing county policy that requires county agencies providing services directly to the public to translate all of the vital documents into the six most common non-English languages. Additional county agencies such as the Sheriff’s office and Comptroller among others will now also be required to provide interpretation services for individuals in their primary language with respect to the provision of services or benefits. SEPA Mujer participated in both public hearings. Members and clients testified in support. They shared the negative impact of reaching out to police or county agencies during an emergency and having had been turned away, discriminated, neglected, or even targeted. SEPA Mujer members, staff, and volunteers celebrated on April 25, 2018, when close to midnight, the resolution passed 11-7.
Since the passing of Resolution 1033 for Suffolk County, changes on Language Access have improved with new language access liaisons in county departments. However, there is still much work to be done to do the adequate oversight needed to secure that no one's civil rights get violated. Take action and join LILAC meetings, conferences, and hard work. Contact SEPA Mujer for more information about LILAC.