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NYS: Expanded language access policy, virtual forum on rise in hate crimes against Asian-American community

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Mon, Mar 29th 2021 09:35 am

Executive order will increase number of languages covered under statewide language access policy from 6 to 10
Virtual forum addressing rise in Asian-American Pacific Islander hate crimes scheduled for March 30

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced the signing of an executive order significantly expanding the state's language access policy, ensuring more New Yorkers will have access to important services regardless of the language they speak. Additionally, he announced a virtual public forum, in response to the rise of hate incidents and attacks against Asian-Americans across New York and the country, will take place at 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 30.

"The disturbing rise in hate crimes against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities in our state and across the nation is nothing short of disgusting and are being committed by those seeking to spread fear, hate and division," Cuomo said. "In New York, our diversity has always been our greatest strength, and we will never let these vile, cowardly attacks divide us. No one should ever feel threatened because of who they are, how they look or what language they speak, and we will continue to stand united with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities in condemning hate and discrimination whenever and wherever we see it."

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said, "There is no place for hate in New York. We stand with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community as a beacon of hope to others. We will do everything we can to boost resources for victims of hate crimes and condemn discrimination in our state."

Language Access Expansion

A press release stated, “Originally issued in 2011, Gov. Cuomo's new expansion of the state's language access policy comes at a time when New York state and the nation as a whole are witnessing a disturbing increase in hate crimes and bias incidents targeting Asian-Americans. Hate crimes and bias incidents often target individuals based on their perceived race, ethnicity or national origin, and can include attacks directed at people for speaking a language other than English. The governor's action … sends a strong message that all people are welcome in New York state, regardless of where they are from or what language they speak.

“Approximately 2.5 million New Yorkers do not speak English as their primary language and have limited ability to speak, read, write or understand English. This can make it difficult or impossible for those individuals to access important government benefits and services.

“Under the governor's directive, state agencies that provide direct public services will be required to translate vital documents, including forms and other documents that are key to accessing state services, into at least the top 10 languages most commonly spoken by New Yorkers with limited English proficiency. The policy also requires agencies to provide free interpretation services to members of the public seeking access to state services.

“Under the governor's new language access policy, vital documents will be translated into Arabic, Italian, Polish and Yiddish, in addition to the six languages – Bengali, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian and Spanish – currently covered by the previous language access policy enacted by Gov. Cuomo in 2011.”

Division of Human Rights Virtual Forum

The forum will be hosted by the Division of Human Rights and address the increase in hate incidents targeting Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in recent months. One recent report has documented nearly 4,000 such incidents across the country since the pandemic started in March 2020.

The event will bring together community leaders to discuss the impacts of these attacks as well as provide a broader historical context for hate crimes across New York. The discussion will be led by Division of Human Rights Interim Commissioner Johnathan J. Smith and will feature leading matter experts including Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of Asian American Federation; Scott Richman, regional director of the NY/NJ Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League; and Sim J. Singh, senior manager of policy and advocacy at the Sikh Coalition.

Smith said, "The attacks against the AAPI community are ugly, tragic, and completely unacceptable. In New York, we are fully committed to doing all we can to ensure that everyone has the right to live with dignity, free from discrimination and bias."

As part of the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force, the New York State Police, the Division of Human Rights and the Division of Criminal Justice Services work together to identify and investigate hate-motivated crimes and bias-related trends, community vulnerabilities and discriminatory practices.

Last year, Cuomo signed domestic terrorism legislation into law, which allows a person to be charged with a state-level felony for an act of terrorism if they use a gun or knife to attack an individual or group based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity or expression, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation. In 2019, he signed legislation that requires local law enforcement agencies to be properly trained in recognizing and responding to hate crimes.

Cuomo also launched a new hotline, 1-877-NO-HATE-NY, that New Yorkers can call to report a hate crime or if they have knowledge of a potential bias attack. To report other issues of bias or discrimination, visit the division's website here, call 1-888-392-3644, or text HATE to 81336.

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