“We have a commitment to make sure that Massachusetts speaks as loud as it can to make sure that everybody is represented.”
Lawmakers and immigrants-rights activists in the Commonwealth are hoping to pass the Language Access and Inclusion Act, which would dramatically expand the availability of non-English language resources at government agencies.
Key documents for MassHealth or unemployment insurance would be translated for non-English speakers while interpretive services and staff would be made readily available at state offices.
Sen. Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett, said the bill would help the one-in-10 state residents considered having limited proficiency in English.
“We can’t wait two, three, four more years for our friends in our community getting lost in the shuffle and not being valued for what they bring to our state,” DiDomenico asserted.
DiDomenico argued the government owes language services to the immigrants and essential workers who showed up during the pandemic and kept the economy running.
In fact, DiDomenico noted while bus routes in many parts of Boston operated at 10% capacity throughout the pandemic, buses in his district were at 50% capacity, because many of his constituents did not have an option to work from home.
Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, D-Springfield, the bill’s co-sponsor, said every lawmaker in the Commonwealth has a large immigrant community who would benefit from this legislation, because everyone is an immigrant.
“So we have a commitment to make sure that Massachusetts speaks as loud as it can to make sure that everybody is represented in whatever language is their first language,” Gonzalez stated.
Gonzalez added structural change is needed to address a discriminatory issue holding people back from the benefits and services to which they are entitled and need to survive.
The bill would create an advisory board with representatives from limited English-speaking communities, the deaf or hearing-impaired community, and legal service providers to help agencies best implement the law.
Kathryn Carley began her career in community radio, and is happy to be back, covering the New England region for Public News Service. Getting her start at KFAI in Minneapolis, Carley graduated from the University of Minnesota and then worked as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, focusing on energy and agriculture. Moving to Washington, D.C., she filed stories for The Pacifica Network News and The Pacifica Report. Later Carley worked as News Host for New York Public Radio, WNYC as well as Co-Anchor for Newsweek’s long running radio program, Newsweek on Air. Carley also served as News Anchor for New York Times Radio. She now lives near Boston, MA.