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Homeland Security

Guidance for Department-Supported Organizations to Provide Meaningful Access to People with Limited English Proficiency

The DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) provides guidance for recipients of Department financial assistance to help them to understand and implement their obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide meaningful access for people with limited English proficiency (LEP).

Title VI and its regulations forbid recipients of federal financial assistance to conduct their programs in a way that has the effect of subjecting persons to discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. Long-standing interpretations of the law and regulations mandate reasonable steps to offer foreign language assistance if necessary to provide meaningful access to LEP persons.

The Department provides financial assistance agencies and organizations that partner with us to carry out our vital homeland security missions: preventing terrorism and enhancing security; securing and managing our borders; enforcing and administering our immigration laws; safeguarding and securing cyberspace; and ensuring resilience to disasters. It is crucial that our programs and services be accessible to all the people they interact with, regardless of English proficiency. Accordingly, recipients of DHS financial support must take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by LEP persons.

Examples of grant recipients include: state and local emergency management agencies, fire and police departments, and other governmental departments or non-governmental recipients of support. Entities that receive valuable in-kind assistance such as training or computer equipment are covered as well. (Many of these entities, whether they are state and local governmental departments or non-governmental organizations, are also covered by similar LEP requirements because of other federal financial assistance from other agencies.) This Guidance is very similar to that of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other agencies.

As explained in the Guidance, in determining when and how to provide language services such, as interpretation and translation, the first step for a covered entity is to conduct an individualized assessment that examines the following four factors:

  1. The number or proportion of LEP persons eligible to be served or likely to be encountered
  2. The frequency with which LEP individuals are encountered
  3. The nature and importance of the program, activity, or service provided
  4. The resources available to the recipient and the costs of providing language services

This four-part test, first listed in DOJ's 2002 LEP Guidance, lists the criteria that the Department will use in evaluating recipients' compliance with Title VI.

CRCL works with DHS Components, the agencies and entities they financially assist, and the individuals and communities who are the end beneficiaries of their programs, to fulfill the obligation to provide meaningful access to federally supported activities to eligible LEP persons. CRCL also offers technical assistance on language access to DHS financial recipients. Additionally, CRCL leads the Department's efforts to improve language access to its own programs as they continue to support and fund programs for new immigrants and other individuals to learn English.

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