New York State Assembly

Legislative Task Force on New Americans

2003 Annual Report

“Interpretation Services At Hospitals
Is Our Right”

Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, Chair
Speaker Sheldon Silver

A Message
Adriano Espaillat

Just in the last decade, over one million new immigrants moved to New York City. In fact, more than a third of all New Yorkers are foreign born. These immigrants keep our communities vibrant, and provide valuable services to the cities and towns where they live. The Task Force recognizes their contribution to the state and, through legislation and active community involvement, strives to ensure that New Americans as well as all New Yorkers have access to the health care, education and legal services they need. This report provides an overview of the main issues we addressed this year.

Interpretation and Translation at Hospitals

New York ranks fourth among all states in terms of the percentage of its population that speaks a language other than English. The lack of adequate interpretation services at hospitals and health care facilities creates a language barrier that prevents many of these limited English proficiency New Yorkers from getting primary and preventive care. When they do seek medical care at hospitals and clinics, health care workers are forced to turn to unqualified interpreters such as minor children and other family members, to translate patients’ symptoms, discuss medical history or describe possible courses of treatment. In many cases, using a relative inhibits communication with the medical staff, and leads to improper diagnoses and medical errors.

The Task Force Chair has introduced a bill in the Assembly (A. 5431-B) that would require every hospital to provide language assistance to ensure access to services such as health care, billing and making appointments. It was approved by the Assembly and referred to the Senate for consideration. A companion bill introduced by Assemblymember Gottfried (A. 8049-A) would require Medicaid to pay for interpretation services. Meaningful language access can substantially improve the health and quality of life of many immigrants and their families. We urge you to contact your local legislator to show your support for this legislation.

Task Force Chair Adriano Espaillat, Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried and State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer answer questions at a press conference before the start of the Assembly’s public hearing on Interpretation and Translation in Hospitals, held on November 24, 2003 in New York City. The hearing was co-sponsored by Assemblymember Espaillat, Assemblymember Gottfried and Assemblymember Kevin Cahill, Chair of the Legislative Task Force on People with Disabilities. More than 45 New Yorkers testified at the hearing.

Executive Order No. 34

On May 13, 2003, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued Executive Order No. 34, revoking a 13-year-old policy that prohibited city employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status when applying for city services. Four months later, the Mayor signed Executive Order No. 41 to make it clear that Executive Order No. 34 did not authorize city agencies to develop anti-immigrant policies, procedures and/or training programs.

In doing so, the Mayor recognized the concerns of Task Force Chair Adriano Espaillat, several of his Assembly colleagues and community advocates. They feared that this order, as originally issued, would have prevented city residents from seeking services they are entitled to and that are necessary for their survival or protection because of fear that inquiries into their immigration status would get them deported. Executive Order No. 41 establishes a city-wide privacy policy to protect information regarding immigration status as well as sexual orientation, status as a sexual assault victim or victim of domestic violence and income tax records. Now, once again, immigrants will be able to apply for essential city services such as health care, education and law enforcement without fear of deportation. This was a great victory for the immigrant community!

June 10, 2003

Honorable Michael Bloomberg
Mayor of the City of New York
City Hall
New York City, NY 10007

RE: Executive Order No. 34

Dear Mayor Bloomberg:

On May 13, 2003 you issued Executive Order No. 34, revoking a 13-year policy that prohibited city employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status when applying for city services. I am deeply disappointed that you felt this ban was no longer necessary to ensure all New York City residents, including hard working undocumented immigrants, have access to essential city services such as health care, education and law enforcement.

Fear of deportation will prevent many parents from seeking the services they desperately need to take care of their families. Battered women will hesitate to call the police to report their abusers for fear that their illegal immigration status might be revealed. Injured workers may fail to report job-related accidents because they fear being reported to the immigration authorities.

There is growing concern among many of my constituents that this new Executive Order gives city agencies the authority to develop policies, procedures and training programs that are anti-immigrant. It does so by allowing city officers or employees to determine independently whether a person’s immigration status is relevant to the provision of services. This creates a subjective standard that can be easily abused.

Just in the last decade, over one million new immigrants have moved to New York City. Whether legal or undocumented, these aliens have provided valuable services to our communities. They have revived neighborhoods and replenished the labor supply. They deserve to enjoy the same benefits and services without fear of deportation.

I hope that you would consider repealing Executive Order 34. In the alternative, please consider supporting legislation currently pending before the City Council that proposes to turn the ban into law.

Thanks for your attention to this matter,


Adriano Espaillat, Chair
New York State Assembly-Task Force on New Americans

Drop-out Rates for High School English Language Learners

Every year, hundreds of newly-arrived immigrant children enter the school system. They are faced with the challenge of achieving English proficiency while also carrying a normal class load. These English Language Learners (ELLs) are required to take the English Regents exam within a relatively short period of time after their arrival to New York, in order to obtain a high school diploma and meet the state’s strict Regents standards. For many of these students, being forced to take the English Regents at such an early stage has proven to be an insurmountable task. Instead of closing the achievement gap, as experts claim, this high-stakes test is pushing immigrant children to drop out of school at an alarming rate.

The Department of Education has refused to create alternative assessments that would take into consideration the needs of special groups such as ELLs. Some of the suggestions presented to the Department so far include allowing individual districts more freedom to choose the method that is best suited to test their student body, letting ELLs take an English proficiency test based on the number of years they have been in English classes, and or establishing a waiver from passing the exam for newcomers with limited English skills. Bill No. 6016 was introduced in the Assembly by Assemblymember Peter Rivera to ask for such a waiver. However, no action was taken on this bill.

The Task Force will continue to look for answers to this problem. Our goal is to be able to encourage immigrant children to learn and stay in school by creating a practical and feasible environment focused on education.

Driver’s Licenses & Social Security Numbers

To obtain a driver’s license in New York, a person must have either a Social Security number (SSN) or present a letter from the Social Security Administration along with official immigration documentation showing that the person is not eligible for a SSN. As a result of this inflexible requirement, a large number of legal immigrants are denied a driver’s license. While some of these immigrants choose to use public transportation, others opt to use false documents to obtain a license or feel forced to drive illegally in order to go to work, school, medical appointments, etc. In the long run, unlicensed drivers have a negative effect on the lives of every New Yorker. Insurance premiums go up, unsafe drivers are not identified and identity fraud increases.

Assemblymember Felix Ortiz has introduced bill No. A5690 to allow applicants to substitute a Social Security Number with a federal individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) or any other identifier or number deemed appropriate by the Department of Motor Vehicles when applying for or renewing a driver’s license. This bill was referred to the Assembly’s Transportation Committee for consideration.

Immigrants’ Day

Immigrants’ Day took place on April 30, 2003 in Albany, New York. This yearly event, cosponsored by the Task Force and the New York Immigration Coalition, brings together a large number of community organizations from across the state to advocate on behalf of immigrants and their families for better education, health care, protection for immigrant workers, language access, governmental services and benefits, and also for more English classes and citizenship-related legal services.

For more information, or if you would like to participate in Immigrants’ Day 2004, please contact the New York Immigration Coalition at 212-627-2227.

Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride

Task Force Chair Adriano Espaillat attends the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride rally coordinated by Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, on October 4, 2003, at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, New York. The rally drew more than 125,000 immigrant workers and activists, including labor advocates, legislators and clergy members to call attention to the plight of immigrant workers, and to ask for changes in the areas of citizenship, family reunification, job representation and civil rights protection.


The following bills were introduced by Task Force Chair Adriano Espaillat and his colleagues to address many of the issues that affect New Americans in the State of New York. Please contact the Task Force or the sponsors if you would like to obtain more information about these bills.

A4815 (Stringer) — Provides for impact aid for education services for immigrant students
Status: Education Committee

A6014 (Rivera) — Directs the Education Department to conduct a study of English learning programs in elementary and secondary schools
Status: Ways and Means Committee

A5353 (Espaillat) — Waives citizenship or immigration requirements for physicians and midwives when granting a professional license to practice in underserved areas
Status: Higher Education Committee

A6016 (Rivera) — Establishes a waiver from passing the English language arts Regents exam for English language learners
Status: Education Committee

A5354 (Espaillat) — Establishes a memorial award for the children and spouses of those deceased as a result of the crash of American Airlines flight 587
Status: Higher Education Committee

A2068 (Lopez) — Authorizes the Board of Regents to waive citizenship or immigration status to obtain a professional license in the education field
Status: Higher Education Committee

A559 (Lopez) — Requires that school districts in cities having a population of 1,000,000 or more employ a licensed ESL teacher for every fifty non-English speaking pupils or fraction thereof at every elementary school with non-English speaking students
Status: Education Committee

A5309 (Espaillat) — Establishes the bilingual teachers of tomorrow recruitment and retention program to attract and retain certified bilingual teachers Status: Ways and Means Committee

A6320 (Rivera) — Directs the Department of Health to contract with community organizations for distribution of information on health care services and benefits available to immigrants
Status: Health Committee

A5431b (Espaillat) — Requires hospitals to provide language assistance services to patients
Status: Passed Assembly, referred to Senate

A5951 (Rivera) — Establishes a Family Health Plus sponsor buy-in demonstration program for qualified aliens
Status: Social Services CommitteeLegal Rights

A5129 (Perry) — Extends the right to vote in municipal elections to permanent legal US residents
Status: Election Law Committee

A5267 (Espaillat) — Requires a court to advise a defendant of the deportation consequences of a guilty plea
Status: Codes Committee

A5360 (Espaillat) — Outlaws discrimination on the basis of alien status
Status: Government Operations Committee

A5364 (Espaillat) — Requires orders of protection to be issued in the native language of petitioner and respondent
Status: Judiciary Committee

A9180 (Rules Committee/Lopez) — Extends the right to vote in all elections to aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States
Status: Election Law Committee

A2470 (McLaughlin) — Provides for state regulation of immigration consultants
Status: Consumer Protection Committee

A5367 (Espaillat) — Increases compensation of municipal employees who use foreign languages
Status: Passed Assembly, referred to Senate

A5690 (Ortiz) — Allows a legal immigrant to use a tax identification number to apply for or renew a driver’s license
Status: Transportation Committee

A7137 (McLaughlin) — Enacts provisions regulating immigration assistance services to protect unwary immigrants
Status: Passed Assembly, referred to Senate

A5691 (Ortiz) — Allows the use of an alternate form of identification where an applicant for a driver’s license does not have a social security or a tax identification number
Status: Transportation Committee

Task Force of New Americans
Adriano Espaillat, Chair
Room 652
Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
(518) 455-5807
(212) 544-2278

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