In its recently released Justice Index, the National Center for Access to Justice (NCAJ) named the state of New Mexico as the number one state in the United States for language access services. The state received a score of 89.31 (out of 100) based on the NCAJ’s ranking system, which analyzed each state’s infrastructure for providing interpreters and other language access services within its judicial system.
New Mexico has a fairly high number of residents with limited English proficiency, so the ranking makes sense — as of 2015, a little more than 181,000 residents (roughly 9% of the state’s population) had limited English proficiency. Furthermore, the state ranked much higher than other states with larger populations of individuals with limited English proficiency.
For example, California, a state whose population of speakers with limited English proficiency made up about 17% of the state in 2015 ranked tenth, with a score of just 64.15 on the NCAJ’s index. Another state with a high population of residents with limited English proficiency, Nevada, had the fourth lowest score on the index, 15.09, despite this population making up roughly the same percentage of Nevada residents as New Mexico.
New Mexico’s chief justice Michael Vigil credits the state’s Administrative office of the Courts (AOC) for its high ranking — according to the local NPR affiliate in the state, KRWG, AOC has made language access services a major priority, funding interpreter and translation services to ensure that individuals with limited English proficiency are able to navigate the state’s court system effectively and fairly.
“Without language access services, many individuals would be unable to tell their story in courtrooms or file court documents across the state,” Vigil told KRWG. “New Mexico is leading the way in language access services, and I commend AOC’s Language Access Services program on reaching the number one ranking awarded by the NCAJ.”
Connecticut and Maryland round out the top three, with scores of 80.5 and 79.25, respectively. The lowest ranking states were Wyoming (with a score of 12.58), Alabama (12.58), and South Dakota (11.32).