NJ Borough With Large Korean Population Considers Interpreters

PALISADES PARK, N.J. (AP) -

A borough in northern New Jersey where more than half of the residents are of Korean heritage is considering hiring interpreters for public meetings.

Residents in Palisades Park tell The Record newspaper that they haven’t been able to completely understand and participate at town meeting sessions. They say they want Korean-language interpreters at the meetings.

“I strongly believe that Palisades Park has a duty and responsibility to provide translators so I can fully participate,” said Julian Han, a Korean-speaking community member. “I feel my right is limited and I feel marginalized.”

The 2010 U.S. Census shows the borough has more than 10,000 residents of Korean heritage.

Mayor James Rotundo has said the town would provide an interpreter if speakers of Korean continued attending town meetings in large numbers.

Rotundo said last week that the city put out requests to see if any businesses can provide interpretation services for residents who speak Korean as well as other languages.

The newspaper said the topic will likely be discussed on Tuesday.

Asisa Rahim, special counsel for Legal Services of New Jersey, said municipalities are not legally required to provide interpreters at public meetings, but that the U.S. Department of Justice says there should be “reasonable steps” to provide appropriate language assistance services so non-English speakers can participate.

Bergen County began offering Korean-language ballots in 2011 due to its growing Korean population. The U.S. Census said that population was more than 56,000 in 2010.

Many school districts in the state already send out fliers to parents in multiple languages. Bergen and Passaic counties have for years made Spanish-language ballots and election materials available.