MEDIA ADVISORY

Court hearing FRIDAY: HSD must translate food stamp applications immediately, argue plaintiffs

ALBUQUERQUE—On Friday in a federal court, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty will argue that census data shows the New Mexico Human Services Department should begin translating food and medical assistance applications and notices into Vietnamese, Chinese, and Diné/Navajo immediately.

In January 2022, Judge Kenneth Gonzales ordered HSD to collect data on the languages spoken by New Mexicans served by the state’s food and medical assistance program and affirmed the agency’s legal obligation to translate documents based on the demographics of those served by local agency offices. The ruling was on a motion filed by applicants for food and medical assistance, represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty in the Deborah Hatten Gonzales v. David Scrase lawsuit. 

Plaintiffs have provided census data showing that there are more than 100 low-income families that primarily speak Vietnamese, Chinese, and Diné/Navajo in areas served by a single office, which under federal law requires translation of the food and medical assistance application and other documents. Plaintiffs argue no further research is needed on these groups while HSD collects data on other non-English speaking populations in New Mexico.

For years advocates and community members have called for fair access to state services for New Mexicans who speak languages other than English. This last session the Legislature passed House Bill 22: Limited English Access To State Programs, which awaits the governor’s signature. If signed into law, it would require all state agencies with secretaries perform a language use analysis and develop an agency language access plan, similar to analysis required under federal food stamp regulations. 

New Mexican families who speak languages other than English have reported barriers accessing food and medical assistance, which has been especially difficult during the pandemic. 

WHAT: 

Hearing on language access motion in Deborah Hatten Gonzales v. David Scrase

WHO:

  • U.S. District Judge Kenneth J. Gonzales
  • Counsel for plaintiffs: Sovereign Hager, Verenice Peregrino Pompa, and Teague González of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Daniel Yohalem, civil rights attorney
  • Counsel for HSD

WHEN: 

Friday, February 25, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.

WHERE:

Pete V. Domenici U.S. Courthouse, 4th Floor Chama Courtroom, 333 Lomas Avenue, Albuquerque 87102

*The hearing will take place in person. Masks are required in all federal courtrooms.

Judge Gonzales January, 2022 court order can be found here: https://cookieless-offload.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/nmpovertylaw/Order-Language+Access-DHG-2022-01-21-compressed.pdf

The plaintiffs’ reply brief with census data can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/doc-1036-deborah-hatten-gonzales-reply-on-motion-for-clarification_nmclp_2022-02-18/

The September 2021 order for HSD to implement a corrective action plan can be found here:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r-N6N8KCIk1sJDxxxywIY5Zz7dIeRf81/view?usp=sharing