Carcieri strikes back on interpreters

In response to yesterday's statement from the ACLU, the gov's office released this announcement:

Governor Donald L. Carcieri’s office today issued the following statement affirming that the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS) is fully in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and with a 1997 consent agreement requiring that the state make available language interpretation services for those seeking welfare and other benefits.


“Governor Carcieri is confident that the Department of Human Services will continue to provide access to the appropriate language interpretation services, as required by federal law and by the 1997 consent agreement,” Carcieri press secretary Jeff Neal said. “This issue was examined in depth as the state prepared its plans to reduce the size of the state workforce. The state was convinced that we could reduce the number of language interpreters – especially those translating less commonly encountered languages – while continuing to provide the appropriate translation options through existing contracts with outside language interpretation services.”


“In particular, the Department of Human Services has a number of translators on staff to provide interpretation services for Rhode Islanders seeking benefits,” Neal continued. “Interpreters employed directly by the state are used to translate for the most commonly used foreign languages, such as Spanish.  Because of the high volume of Spanish speakers, it makes economic and logistical sense for the state to directly retain employees who can provide those translation services.”


“The same cannot be said, however, for much less commonly encountered foreign languages such as Hmong and Cambodian,” Neal said. “Even before the recent reduction in force was announced, no state department or agency retained enough interpreters to translate for each and every language that might be encountered.  Instead, the Department of Human Services has for years used pre-approved language interpretation services – such as the International Institute – to provide translation services for individuals speaking less commonly encountered foreign languages. To this day, nobody has complained about that policy.”


“We understand that the ACLU, in light of the recent decision to reduce the size of the state workforce to address the state’s looming budget crisis, would prefer that the state retain language interpreters who can translate for less commonly encountered languages,” Neal said. “Unfortunately, hiring and retaining additional interpreters to translate for less commonly encountered languages simply does not make sense for the department, for state government or for Rhode Island taxpayers. Language interpretation services for people speaking Hmong and Cambodian can be provided through outside translation services just as they have long been provided for people speaking for Russian, Hungarian and many other languages.”

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