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Immigrant advocates criticize Nassau over translation deadline shortfall

Immigrant advocates are criticizing Nassau County for slow implementation of executive orders that require translation of vital government documents into six languages and available interpreters for non-English speakers seeking key services.

County Executive Edward Mangano signed the orders last July and August. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed similar orders in 2012 and 2011, respectively, and had made faster progress in implementing them, the advocates said.

Mangano's order on July 30, 2013, stated that translation of documents such as public assistance applications and police forms -- into Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Persian, Korean and French Creole -- was to be completed within the year. The documents would then be published on Nassau's website.

Mangano's order last August also required some departments controlled by the county executive to complete a "language access plan" including a list of "competently" bilingual employees and outside interpreters available upon request.

But several advocates who worked on the orders with Mangano's office said many of the requirements -- including full availability of translated documents, online and at county departments, and full completion of the agency plans to comply with the orders -- appeared not to have been met by last week. They also said the administration has rebuffed their requests to meet for updates.

"We're really disappointed," said Cheryl Keshner, who coordinates the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition, an advocacy group for residents with limited English proficiency. "They're not doing what they're supposed to right now."

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said translation of vital documents is nearly done, but there is no required time frame for online access. Nevin said officials are working to first get translated social services documents online, and that other departments would soon follow.

In the meantime, Nevin said residents can obtain the translation and interpretation services required by the orders in person at many county offices, including via a telephone service or printed from state websites.

"We are committed to ensuring that all county residents have access to essential county programs and services and, to that end, we are committed to making certain that implementation of the executive orders results in consistent and effective programs for [limited English proficiency] members of the public," Nevin said.

Grisselle Rivera-Mucciolo, Hispanic outreach services director for the Long Island Center for Independent Living, a Levittown nonprofit for people with disabilities, said she has received a half-dozen complaints in recent months about county departments that failed to provide interpreters promptly.

"These services are extremely important, and some people have not been able to talk to somebody in their language," said Rivera-Mucciolo.

The advocates said Suffolk County more quickly posted its department plans to comply with the order and provided complaint forms for residents who feel they didn't get translation services. But like in Nassau, Suffolk has yet to place all translated documents online.

Justin Meyers, a Bellone spokesman, acknowledged Suffolk's work wasn't complete, but said the administration has met 30 times with advocates.

"We haven't completely finished, but we're continuing to work on it daily," Meyers said.Keshner said the advocates have pushed for more meetings with Nassau, but have been unable to get them. But in Suffolk, she said, "they've implemented our feedback, come up with decent plans and at least started putting them into place."

Nevin said Nassau officials are "not aware of any issues the public has concerning the implementation of the executive orders."

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