Influx of West Africans in the Bronx Spurs Demand for Interpreters

More benefits of diversity.

The issues important to the African population in the Bronx are similar to those in other emerging communities: housing and jobs. The number of West African immigrants in the borough (some migrating from higher-priced Harlem) rose to 45,723 residents in 2014 from 28,154 in 2007, according to census data compiled by Queens College.

“It’s forcing the body politic to deal with the African leadership,” said Ms. Afua Atta-Mensah, the town hall moderator, who is the director of litigation for the Urban Justice Center, a legal advocacy group, and a board member of African Communities Together.

By law, any institution that receives federal funding is required to provide interpreter services, said Nisha Agarwal, the city’s commissioner for immigrant affairs. Beyond the basics, though, Ms. Agarwal said the city is examining how “we can be more helpful in facilitating integration.”

St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx is racing to keep up with the demographics by holding diversity days, so that doctors can better understand cultural norms that may affect health, and help immigrants feel comfortable.

Like most hospitals in the city, St. Barnabas uses a language bank to access live interpreters of more than 2,000 languages at all hours. Bright blue phones with two handsets are in examining rooms, one for the doctor and one for the patient to talk with an interpreter who is at a call center.

Read more at the New York Times.

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