FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, April 7, 2014
CONTACT: Elliot Imse, Director of Policy and Communications – 202.481.3773; [email protected]
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) –Today the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) announced that the District of Columbia has joined the Welcoming Cities and Counties Initiative – a network of cities across the U.S. sharing practices and policies for creating welcoming environments for immigrants and that maximize opportunities for economic growth. Nearly 16 percent of District residents – over 90,000 people – were foreign-born according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and today’s announcement attests to this administration’s continued commitment to the District’s immigrant communities. The District becomes a “Welcoming City” during the 10th anniversary of the DC Language Access Act, the landmark legislation which created the OHR Language Access Program, tasked with ensuring all people can access government services.
“I am excited to celebrate and leverage the richness of this diverse city as we commemorate the 10th anniversary of a local law that grants people the right to full civic participation in more than one language,” said OHR Director, Mόnica Palacio. “Over the last four decades, this city has increasingly represented new beginnings and opportunities for immigrant populations from all over the world, and joining the Welcoming Cities Initiative will only build on our achievements in Language Access and our growing reputation as an attractive gateway city that can be home to anyone who wishes to live here.”
OHR’s Language Access Program aims to eliminate the disparity in service delivery to the 26,400 residents – or five percent of the District population – over the age of five that speak little or no English. Over the last ten years, the Program has successfully supported District government agencies in providing equitable services and access for immigrant communities, positioning the District as a national example for best practices in equal access and inclusion.
“Washington, DC is a national leader in developing and implementing a language access policy that helps all residents access the services they need to become fully participating community members” said David Lubell, Executive Director of Welcoming America, the national convener of the Welcoming Cities Initiative. “Ten years later, we are delighted that Washington DC will be joining Welcoming Cities and Counties, and helping inform other municipalities around the nation about how to strengthen their own language access work and promote inclusive policies and practices that lead to socially and economically vibrant communities.”
Through participation in this network, the District looks to share its best practices and access new tools and resources for deepening the impact of the Language Access Program on the District’s growing immigrant communities. In celebration of the 10 year anniversary of the DC Language Access Act and the significant efforts made by District agencies to implement it, OHR will release a report on Language Access implementation at an event on April 15.
The event, Road to a Global DC: 10 Years of Language Access & Immigrant Inclusion, will take place Tuesday, April 15 from 4 pm -7pm at the Carnegie Library at 801 K Street NW. For more information about the event and to RSVP, please visit ohr.dc.gov/10years.
For more information about Welcoming America, please visit welcomingamerica.org.
About the Language Access Act
The purpose of the Language Access Act is to provide access and participation in public services, programs and activities for the District’s limited and non-English proficient constituents at a level equal to that of English proficient individuals. All District government agencies, divisions or programs – including government contractors and grantees that provide information or render services to the public, are covered under this Act.
About the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights
The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) was established to eradicate discrimination, increase equal opportunity and protect human rights for persons who live in or visit the District of Columbia. The agency enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the DC Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against. OHR also proactively enforces human rights in the District through Director’s Inquiries, which allow it to identify and investigate practices and policies that may be discriminatory.