• On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a ground breaking executive order requiring all city agencies to provide language assistance services for people who speak Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian or French Creole. According to The New York Times, this is the first time that all New York City agencies will be forced to follow the same standard in providing translation and language interpretation services to people who do not speak English:
Immigrant advocates and city officials say it is the most comprehensive order of its kind in the country. The mayor refused to be specific about how much the services will cost, saying only that it was a "relatively small" amount given the size of the city’s budget. He added: "This executive order will make our city more accessible, while helping us become the most inclusive municipal government in the nation."
The Opportunity Agenda fact sheet Immigration Reform: Promoting Opportunity for All details the need for immigrants to have access to language assistance services in order to achieve their full potential. In providing immigrant groups with this access, Mayor Bloomberg has taken the entire city forward and empowered communities throughout New York.
• Politicians have also been busy down in Washington, D.C. working to provide language assistance for immigrant families across the United States. At noon today, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congressman Mike Honda are introducing the "Strengthening Communities through Education and Integration Act of 2008." In addition to providing English language literacy and civics education to immigrant families who are in the process of becoming citizens, the bill:
will help immigrant communities become a more integral part of the American fabric and maximize their social and economic contributions.
Legislation like this is crucial to aiding immigrants on their way to becoming U.S. citizens, and is a necessary part of treating immigrants like full and equal members of our community.
• The aftermath of the ICE raids in Postville, Houston, and most recently Rhode Island, is still being felt in communities across America. However, a Washington Post article describes how it is not only workers and their families feeling this strife – now, it is employers as well:
The crackdown's relatively high costs and limited results are also fueling criticism. In an economy with more than 6 million companies and 8 million unauthorized workers, the corporate enforcement effort is still dwarfed by the high-profile raids that have sentenced thousands of illegal immigrants to prison time and deportation.
• A story in the MetroWest Daily News calls attention to a local organization in Massachusetts, the MetroWest Immigrant Worker Center, that is defending the rights of immigrant workers in the U.S. Immigrant workers are routinely subject to labor law violations, including the denial of compensation and overtime, as well as unnecessary injuries on job sites. In addition, the article points out that all immigrants, including undocumented ones, have worker rights:
Contrary to what many people think, illegal workers have rights. Although in the country illegally, those who work are entitled to be paid for their labor and overtime. If they are injured on the job, they are eligible for workers' compensation coverage, said [Diego] Low, [director of the MetroWest Immigrant Worker Center] who has been advocating for immigrant workers' rights for the last 25 years.
Hate crime or not, the killing has exposed long-simmering tensions in Shenandoah, a blue-collar town of 5,000 about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia that has a growing number of Hispanic residents drawn by jobs in factories and farm fields.