Michigan Immigrant Advocates Applaud Introduction of the Equal Language Access Legislation Package
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 09, 2023
Co-Executive Director, Rising Voices
Michigan Immigrant and Civil Rights Advocates Applaud Introduction of the
Equal Language Access Legislation Package
DETROIT, MI – The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) and Rising Voices, two prominent advocacy organizations, join forces to support the comprehensive language access legislation package to lower barriers to accessing state services for Michiganders with limited English proficiency. Advocates commend the bill sponsors, Senator Stephanie Chang, Senator Mary Cavanagh, Representative Ranjeev Puri, and Representative John Fitzgerald, for introducing these bills and their steadfast commitment to fostering a more diverse, equitable, and welcoming Michigan for all.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey in 2021, nearly 7 percent of Michiganders are foreign-born, and 10 percent of the state’s population speak another language besides English at home. As many recent reports have highlighted, Michigan’s population is not growing fast enough; however, the bill package has the potential to boost the state’s stagnant population growth and economy by attracting new residents and workers to Michigan.
“We live in a diverse state that thrives on the contributions of immigrant communities,” said Jasmine Rivera, co-executive director of Rising Voices. “Immigrants are the primary driving force for population growth in Michigan, especially Asian Americans, which are the fastest-growing racial group in the state and country. This bill package is a first and crucial step in providing equitable access for all new Americans, enabling them to more fully participate as residents and enrich the tapestry of our state’s culture and economy.”
"MIRC has advocated for language access in several legislative sessions and we hope this is the year when we can finally celebrate ensuring equal access to state services for all Michiganders," said Christine Sauvé, Community Engagement and Communications Coordinator at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. "These bills will have a tremendous impact on the lives of people with limited English proficiency and their families, many of whom are members of Michigan's immigrant communities. No matter what language you speak or where you were born, we all benefit when people with limited English proficiency are able to fully participate in public life and are included in communication about services relating to public health, safety, taxes, and other important matters we share in common."
The package comprises two bills: the Equal Language Access to State Services Act (SB 382 and HB 4720) and the Statewide Equal Language Access Coordination Act (SB 383 and HB 4721). The Equal Language Access to State Services Act will mandate that covered state agencies take reasonable steps to provide equal language access to individuals with limited English proficiency. It includes provisions for oral language services, translating vital documents, designation of language access liaisons, data collection, and developing biennial reports to monitor and improve language access implementation. It also sets the threshold for providing language accommodations for any language spoken by Limited English Proficient populations that constitute at least 3 percent or 500 people or more of a population served by a local office of a covered state agency.
The Statewide Equal Language Access Coordination Act establishes a framework for coordinated efforts across state government to provide equal language access to public services. It designates the Office of Global Michigan to oversee these efforts and mandates the appointment of language access liaisons within covered entities to facilitate compliance and promote training and outreach activities. The act also establishes a compliance process and remedies for noncompliance and denials of equal access based on national origin.
The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC), Rising Voices, and advocates urge the Michigan Legislature to pass this bill package swiftly and Governor Gretchen Whitmer to sign it when it comes to her desk to improve language access across the state and close the wide racial disparities in ability to access public services.
Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) is a statewide legal resource center for Michigan’s immigrant communities that works to build a thriving Michigan where immigrant communities experience equity and belonging. MIRC's work is rooted in three pillars: direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community engagement and education. michiganimmigrant.org
Rising Voices, a project of the Center for Empowered Politics, is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization that seeks to increase the civic participation of Asian Americans in Michigan by developing the leadership, organizing, and power-building capacity of Asian American women, youth and communities. risingvoicesaaf.org