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CE Latimer signing executive orderMarch 5, 2019 – Westchester County, like New York State, is a diverse melting pot home to numerous cultures and languages. In an effort to knock down any potential barriers to accessing important government programs or services, County Executive George Latimer has signed an Executive Order directing vital County documents to be made available in Spanish, Italian, Chinese, French (including Haitian Creole), Arabic, Tagalog, Japanese and Albanian. The Executive Order was signed at the Generoso Pope Foundation building in Tuckahoe, a setting chosen because of Pope Family’s long-standing tradition of generosity toward the community in which it flourished.

Watch the full press conference.

The Executive Order recognizes shifting demographics and also directs the translation of the top six most common languages spoken in Westchester County according to the most recent United States census and/or American Community Survey Data.

Latimer said: “Nearly 30% of Westchester County residents have limited English proficiency, which creates serious challenges when it comes to access to programs that promote the safety, health and economic success of all who call Westchester home. This action will help overcome those barriers and allow our neighbors continue to thrive right here in our backyard. Almost every single Westchester resident can trace their lineage back to a time when their ancestors were immigrants, this Executive Order aims to not close the door behind us.”

Under this order, County Departments that provide direct public services will translate vital documents, including essential public documents such as forms and instructions provided to or completed by program beneficiaries, clients or participants.

The press conference included speakers, in their native languages, explaining what this Executive Order means to them.

Executive Director of Neighbors Link Carola Otero Bracco said: “How does a person thrive when they can't access the rules, regulations and other protocols to receive the benefits and services they deserve? The public safety, health, economic prosperity, and general welfare of all Westchester County residents are at stake when language is a barrier. The Language Access Executive Order will allow our fellow Westchester residents to fully participate as the valuable members of our community that they are. Neighbors Link applauds the County Executive for recognizing the vital importance of language access to the benefit of all of us.”

Deputy Director of Make the Road New York Theo Oshiro said: “This new policy will make a dramatic difference in people’s lives by ensuring that Westchester County speaks our communities’ languages. It is a crucial victory for ensuring that all Westchester residents have equal access to government services. We applaud County Executive Latimer for showing tremendous leadership on this issue, and we look forward to working with the County on full implementation of the policy.”

Chair, The Italian-American Forum John Calvelli said: “There is still a large Italian community here in Westchester County who do not speak English, and they are sometimes the forgotten. Thank you to County Executive Latimer because he has remembered us. We are all immigrants and we are all in this together.”

Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) Co-VP of Programs & Co- VP Bill Kaung said: “Westchester is a very ethnic diverse County, and we must serve all those who speak different languages. In the past, if I needed a form in a different languages in Westchester I would just use a different form. It is about time.”

Haitian Resource Center Coordinator Myrlene Chauvette said: “It is a pleasure to be here representing the Haitian community. By providing these documents in different languages, it shows Westchester stands for inclusivity and as a member of the Haitian community, this moment truly resonates with me.”

English Second Language Teacher at Vive School, Yonkers Rula Alnajjar Abuali said: “This Executive Order will provide many people an opportunity to understand simple documents they have to fill out for themselves and their families every single day. On behalf of our Arabic community, we are very pleased to see this Executive Order signed.”

New York Portuguese American Leadership Conference President Isabelle Marques said: “I would like to congratulate and thank the County Executive for signing this Executive Order. This is not just for the Portuguese speaking community, but all communities. While we row in the same direction, this will help us serve our communities better.”

Westchester County Legislator David Tubiolo, who spoke in Albanian, said: “I thank my friend, and brother, the County Executive for signing this Executive Order. We have a very large Albanian community that is growing and it is important that we help people who come here as immigrants who may need our help.”

Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition Steven Choi said: “For the past fifteen years, we have worked with partners to successfully expand language access in New York City, New York State, Suffolk and Nassau Counties, and are proud to add Westchester County to that growing list. Breaking down language barriers is a critical first step towards building trust between local government and the communities they serve. We applaud County Executive George Latimer for his leadership and vision, and pledge to work closely with the County Executive for a smooth implementation of this historic step.”

This Executive Order takes effect in 30 days and translation will occur on a rolling basis and must be completed no later than 365 days after the signing of this Order.