July 28, 2014

Mayor Emanuel Announces Language Access Policy Advisory Committee

New Committee Will Make Recommendation to Ensure Immigrants and Residents with Limited English Proficiency Have Meaningful Access to City Services and Programs

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced the formation of an Advisory Committee to develop a language access policy in order to ensure that immigrants and limited-English-proficient (LEP) residents have meaningful access to City services, resources, and programs. The Committee is tasked with evaluating options for both short and long-term language access policies, and at the Mayor’s direction, the group will focus on three critical issues: increasing accessibility to City services for LEP residents, improving service delivery and efficiency of government services, and ensuring quality and compliance of a language access policy.

“As part of my goal to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the country, we are working with a diverse group of community based, legal, and civic leaders to develop a language access policy that encourages immigrants to exercise their rights as Chicago residents by ensuring that every Chicagoan – regardless of English proficiency – has access to City services,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “We want to increase the quality and reliability of City services by removing language barriers and making it easier for Chicago residents to navigate the resources and programs available to them.”

The Advisory Committee will develop recommendations that ensure the City of Chicago can roll out a language access plan in two phases, addressing the highest-priority services first, and then moving to make a broader range of information and services accessible in the long-term. The Mayor asked that the group study other language access policies pursued by other cities, as well as provide feedback regarding translation and interpretation services that are most utilized and needed by residents and community-based organizations that serve immigrants and LEP individuals.

The members of the Language Access Policy Advisory Committee include:
1. Grace Chan, Chinese American Service League
2. Kathleen Fernicola, Asian Americans Advancing Justice
3. Ami Ghandi, South Asian American Policy Research Institute
4. Juliana Gonzalez-Crussi, City of Chicago Advisory Council on Equity
5. Grace Hou, Woods Fund
6. Ahlam Jbara, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
7. Gary Kenzer, Polish American Association
8. Jill Kushner Bishop, Multilingual Connections
9. Sylvia Puente, Latino Policy Forum
10. Layla Suleiman, Illinois Latino Family Coalition

As highlighted in the Chicago New Americans Plan, immigrants face a range of unique issues –language access being a significant barrier. Currently, most City departments and sister agencies provide some services and information in multiple languages. The City will work to ensure that in addition to this, all staff is aware of the best ways to support all immigrants and LEP residents by creating a customized city-wide policy and training all front-line staff to improve service delivery.