The Hispanic/Latino Ad Hoc Committee was formed to identify barriers in the service delivery system that hinder Hispanics/Latinos from obtaining services and having their needs met. The group identified eleven topic areas for discussion, i.e., education, health care, emergency preparedness, police and emergency services, the legal system, housing, worker rights, civil rights, fraud, immigration and motor vehicle services. The eleven topics were combined into five sections for the purpose of this report: 1) Education, 2) Health, 3) Public Safety, 4) Human Rights, and 5) Immigration, Transportation and Fraud.
Regardless of what topic was being discussed by the members of the Ad Hoc Committee, the language barrier issue by far permeated the discussion. The lack of bilingual staff personnel, who are culturally and linguistically competent to provide services to this limited English proficient population, was identified as a major barrier to obtaining quality education, needed health care, emergency services, and many other basic services taken for granted by most persons. Not being able to understand each other consistently led to problems in delivering services, as well as, obtaining available services. Also, the language barrier issue increases the potential for liability, especially in the areas of health care and emergency services. Therefore, the hiring of qualified and certified bilingual persons who are culturally and linguistically competent is a must for the state. In addition, the establishment of and funding for educational programs, to train qualified and competent interpreters and translators, was identified as a critical need.
The second most important issue and barrier faced by most Hispanic/Latinos are their immigration status in this country. There is a perception that most persons of Hispanic origin are in the country and state illegally. When they seek services, they are often met with suspicion. Therefore, whether a Hispanic/Latino person is in the country legally or not, depending upon one’s appearance and accent, that person stands a good chance of receiving unequal treatment and being subjected to closer scrutiny when seeking a driver’s license or other state services. The decision regarding who will possess a valid South Carolina driver’s license is currently affected by one’s immigration status. The Ad Hoc Committee supports the issuing of a valid South Carolina driver’s license to persons who can demonstrate a competency to drive, regardless of their immigration status.
A third common barrier was attitude, on the part of those delivering the services, as well as those seeking services. Hostility toward Hispanics/Latinos persons seeking services at some state agencies appeared to be a common problem. In turn, Hispanics/Latinos often responded with frustration and hostility. Therefore, there is a real need for the state to provide cultural competency training for all front line customer service personnel, as well as management personnel. As stated earlier in this report, there were 95,076 persons of Hispanic origin counted in the 2000 Census. These individuals are believed to be legal residents of South Carolina, who are entitled to the same rights and privileges as other persons, regardless of their national origin.
Finally, the group identified the lack of standardized statewide data collection as a major barrier to public policy decision-making and research. The state should require that all state agencies obtain and maintain information by race and ethnicity. A standardized system of data collection is needed throughout state governmental agencies so that information can be easily compared and analyzed across agency lines.
More specific advisory recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee are included under each section of this report. The costs of implementing many of the advisory recommendations have not been determined. That is the next logical step to be taken in this process. However, where a recommendation can be implemented with minimal cost, the Committee supports the immediate implementation of such.
In conclusion, Hispanic/Latino persons coming to South Carolina are coming because of “jobs” and this migration is expected to continue as long as employers are receptive to hiring Hispanics/Latinos. Therefore, members of the Hispanic/Latino Ad Hoc committee strongly advise that any future State laws and policies advance equal opportunities for all persons, regardless of their national origin or immigration status.