More than two dozen immigrants and their advocates arrived on the doorstep of Nassau County's seat of government in Mineola Wednesday, asking Executive Edward Mangano to ensure that county agencies offer services in the native languages of most residents.
Members of the language-advocacy coalition pressed the administration to deliver on executive orders 67 and 72 from 2013, in which Mangano required departments to translate vital documents into six languages other than English and provide "competent interpretation services."
The protesters -- chanting and holding signs in Spanish, Creole and Mandarin and English -- said Nassau hasn't issued an implementation plan and has ignored advocates' inquiries.
"Ed Mangano made a promise to the county's 130,000 limited-English-proficiency residents that regardless of the language they speak they would be protected and receive equal access," said Cheryl Keshner of the Empire Justice Center, a nonprofit group that operates statewide and focuses on the legal rights of poor and disabled people. Mangano, she said, "has broken his promise."
Administration officials said there has been progress, with police and social service departments providing translation and interpretation, and other offices working toward the goal of language help in Spanish, Mandarin, Italian, Persian, Korean and Creole.
"We have a language-access policy that's in place, that continues to develop each day and with each additional agency," said Brian Nevin, Mangano's spokesman.
Nevin and Herb Flores, the county's deputy director of minority affairs, had to respond to a group of about 20 people who insisted on delivering signed cards expressing support for a multilingual Nassau County. Nevin later said 53 of 144 cards were from Nassau residents.
When Flores said "the process has been started," Senen Vasquez, a Westbury resident, told of how she recently had to jump through hoops to get language help in applying for Medicaid at a social services office.
"They may have bilingual people, but they are no help," she said in Spanish. "They didn't want to see me, they didn't want to receive me, they didn't even want to listen." Advocates and county officials agreed to schedule a meeting later this month.