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Blog Post

Recognizing National Hispanic Heritage Month

From September 15 through October 15, the United States recognizes National Hispanic Heritage Month.  To mark National Hispanic Heritage Month, the division has created two national maps that highlight an important and often overlooked aspect of Hispanic communities: individuals who identify as Spanish-speaking and limited English proficient (LEP).  Though these maps concern this aspect of Hispanic communities, we recognize that within Hispanic communities there is a great deal of diversity.  Hispanic communities include individuals who are fluent in English as well as those who are LEP.  Spanish is one among many languages that are spoken in Hispanic communities, and not all Hispanic individuals who identify as LEP speak Spanish as their first language.  With that in mind, the maps we release today demonstrate that Spanish-speaking LEP individuals make up a significant portion of our country’s LEP population, with almost half of all states home to at least 100,000 people who identify as part of this group.

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the rights of all individuals regardless of their ability to speak the English language.  As entities prepare to meet the needs of their constituents and customers, it is important to understand what languages are prevalent in their communities.  Population data serves as an important tool for language access planning and civil rights enforcement.  For example, a state agency conducting a state-wide investigation could use these maps as a starting point to determine whether it may need to arrange for Spanish language interpreters or translated materials to communicate with LEP complainants or witnesses during site-visits, and whether services in other languages may also be necessary.  After reviewing the maps, a state emergency management agency may realize that its state contains a large number of Spanish-speaking LEP residents and decide to incorporate local Spanish-language media outlets into its notification and outreach plan.  With an improved understanding of the number and distribution of Spanish-speaking LEP individuals across the country, a federal agency may decide to translate forms, contact information, and other important materials on its website.

We hope that recipients of federal funding will use our language maps to inform their compliance efforts under the nondiscrimination laws, such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Title VI prohibits recipients of federal funding – such as police departments, transit agencies, hospitals, schools, courts, and state and local government entities – from discriminating on the basis of race, color, and national origin, including discrimination on the basis of limited English proficiency.  Executive Order 13166 extends language access principles to federal agencies and we anticipate that federal agencies will also use these maps when updating and implementing their language access policies, plans, and procedures.

Limited English proficiency occurs throughout the United States, both among Hispanic communities and those of other ethnic backgrounds as immigrants and other individuals learn the English language.  Our LEP maps noting the numbers of Spanish-speaking individuals throughout the U.S. are companions to the division’s Language Map App, which we launched in honor of the 15th anniversary of Executive Order 13166, and the Asian and Pacific Islander National Language Maps, which we launched in recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month last May.  Federal, state, and local entities should consider this information and take steps to ensure that they have in place the necessary language services to provide LEP individuals and communities with meaningful access to their programs and services.  All of these maps, as well as many other language access tools and resources, are available at

Updated March 3, 2017