Law student drafts ordinance for language access

May 6, 2013 9:00 AM

David Marcello

When third-year law student Abel Delgado enrolled in the Legislative and Administrative Advocacy Clinic, he wanted to draft legislation that would facilitate language access for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) residents of New Orleans. He never expected that his work might help to open the doors of access for LEP residents in other cities across the United States.

Abel Delgado

Abel Delgado has drafted legislation that would benefit Limited English Proficiency residents in New Orleans and around the country. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

The Public Law Center, which runs the Legislative and Administrative Advocacy Clinic at Tulane Law School, sent Delgado's draft of an ordinance to the American Legislative Issues Campaign Exchange (ALICE), a web-based data bank for progressive state and local legislation. ALICE posted Delgado’s “2012 Model New Orleans Language Access Ordinance” on its website, where language access advocates across America can find it and use it in drafting their own language access ordinances.

New Orleans Councilmember Susan Guidry has expressed interest in introducing Abel’s language access ordinance, which would be heard before her Governmental Affairs Committee.

“I would love to appear and testify in support of the ordinance," says Delgado. “It’s exciting to know that research and drafting work I did in the clinic might someday soon help Spanish and Vietnamese speakers engage meaningfully with city government.”

The ordinance directs New Orleans’ Office of Neighborhood Engagement (ONE) to hire bilingual staff, who’ll then translate outreach materials into Spanish and Vietnamese and record voicemail messages to assist LEP persons in accessing vital city services.

Translation and interpretation resources are prioritized for departments offering public safety and emergency services. ONE will collect language-access surveys from each city department, analyze the responses and present findings to the City Council within nine months. The model ordinance contemplates a complaint system using online forms available in Spanish and Vietnamese. It also guarantees due process for LEP persons.

David Marcello is executive director of The Public Law Center.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000