The New Orleans City Council is urging Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration to increase the city’s outreach and services for immigrants and other people who don’t speak English.
A resolution given unanimous approval Thursday, known as the “Welcoming Cities” resolution, is based on similar efforts in other cities.
“This will identify common-sense measures to improve the lives of our residents, especially those facing obstacles to opportunity and full participation in our city,” said Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, author of the resolution.
The document calls on the administration to provide information to the council on a series of benchmarks aimed largely at ensuring that those who can’t speak or read English can access city services.
The resolution is not binding and does not mandate any new policies, though Cantrell’s office has said she will seek regular updates on how the city is doing in providing services to immigrant populations.
The benchmarks include the number of bilingual employees with the 311 information line and other city agencies, the employment of operators who speak Spanish or Vietnamese to take 911 calls and the availability of information on hurricane safety in multiple languages.
The resolution also urges more outreach to immigrant communities from the city’s Office of Economic Development and programs aimed at assisting minority- and women-owned businesses.
It also calls on the Police Department to provide reports on the use of devices that can provide real-time translation services; to educate officers about policies that require them to provide police service without regard for an individual’s immigration status; and to make “diligent efforts to ensure that the Police Department reflects the diversity of the community.”
The resolution also cites more symbolic measures, such as adding holidays from other cultures to the City Council calendars, increasing the diversity of flags displayed in City Hall and providing opportunities for “diverse religious leaders” to offer prayers before council meetings.
The measure was supported by the Congress of Day Laborers and members of various immigrant groups in New Orleans.
“The administration and specifically the Mayor’s Office on Civic Engagement have worked closely with the District B team on the development of these action steps so we can make sure that New Orleans is indeed an international city that is welcoming,” Cantrell said.
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