NEWARK, NJ (January 12, 2024) – Today New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill (S2459/A3837) that will expand language access to vital documents in New Jersey. The bill will require state agencies providing direct services to provide translation and interpretation in the seven most common languages in the state. Currently those languages include Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, Korean, Gujarathi, and Portuguese. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization organizing in support of the bill and immigrant rights more broadly – celebrated the bill’s passage.
“The expansion of language access demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and respect for linguistic diversity within the community,” said Serges Demefack, coordinator for AFSC’s Black Immigrant Justice Project. “This new law will foster trust between government institutions and immigrants, encouraging greater civic engagement and participation in public processes. By providing translation and interpreting services, New Jersey state agencies ensure that all residents, regardless of their proficiency in English, can access vital services such as healthcare, legal aid, education, and social services.”
The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice – of which AFSC is an active member – mobilized hundreds of New Jersey residents in support of this legislation. Community members called, emailed, and met with assembly members, shared their stories at Town Hall meetings, and testified and rallied at the State House. AFSC staff also travelled to the state house on a recurrent basis to lobby for the bill and testified when the bill was being discussed in relevant committee meetings in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and in the Assembly Local Government Committee and Appropriation Committee.
“Grassroots activists and community members were essential in passing this bill,” said Araceli Argueta, Organizing and Advocacy Director for AFSC's New Jersey Immigrant Rights Program. “Language access is about giving communities a voice, ensuring rights, and recognizing the challenges and complexities of the various systems that are supposed to provide care in New Jersey. We hope that city and county governments will enact similar measures, and that agencies at every level will increase the number of languages provided.”
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.