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Homeland Security

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

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The Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) is pleased to announce that the Department of Homeland Security has published new Guidance for recipients of Department of Homeland Security financial assistance in the Federal Register. The purpose of this Guidance is to help those who carry out Department-supported activities 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. This requirement has existed for years - but in order to assist the thousands of agencies and organizations that receive financial support from the Department to comply, the Department has drafted the Guidance published in the Federal Register.

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; ensuring resilience to disasters. It is crucial for homeland security that the resulting programs and services be accessible to all the people they interact with, regardless of English proficiency. Accordingly, recipients of Department of Homeland Security 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 guidance introduced by other agencies, beginning with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2002.

As explained in the LEP Guidance, in determining when and how to provide language services such as interpretation and translation services, 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 can offer technical assistance on language access to recipients of Department support.

CRCL is excited to work with Department components and the agencies and entities they support with financial assistance - and with the individuals and communities who are the end beneficiaries of their programs - to fulfil the obligation to provide meaningful access to federally supported activities to eligible persons with limited English proficiency.

At the same time, CRCL will be working across the Department to improve language access to its own programs, and the Department will continue to support and fund programs for new immigrants and other individuals to learn English.


By mail or phone:
Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Building 410, Mail Stop #0190
Washington, D.C. 20528

Phone: 202-401-1474
Toll-Free: 1-866-644-8360
TTY: 202-401-0470
Toll-Free TTY: 1-866-644-8361
Fax: 202-401-4708

By e-mail:

Last Published Date: September 30, 2015

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