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Hempstead Town translates passport documents into Spanish

Hempstead Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana, seen on Jan.

Hempstead Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana, seen on Jan. 23, 2018, said government documents can be difficult to decipher for those whose first language is not English. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Hempstead Town clerk’s office has received federal permission to translate passport documents into Spanish, officials said.

Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana, who is fluent in Spanish, pledged last year during her election campaign to translate town documents into other languages. She said her priority upon taking office last month was to begin with passport documents.

The town had to translate the federal documents into Spanish and get approval from the State Department, Cabana said. The department granted permission earlier this month.

“I’d like to do more languages,” Cabana said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s kind of common sense.”

Hempstead Town’s population of more than 768,000 includes 19.4 percent who identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to 2016 Census estimates.

Cabana said government documents can be difficult to decipher for residents whose first language is not English. “They have more of a shot of understanding if it’s at least in Spanish,” she added.

She has also directed her supervisors to see what remaining documents can be translated into other languages and find out if any federal or state approval is necessary.

“I’m trying to translate as many documents as possible,” she said.

The clerk also hopes to build upon a program called the “Language Access Initiative,” which began under former Supervisor Anthony Santino in 2016 for residents to speak with town translators who are fluent in more than a dozen languages.

“I think that’s a great idea and that program should be expanded,” Cabana said.

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