Department of Justice Updates
Department of Justice Updates
Fall 2016 Newsletter
- Department of Justice Reaches Settlement Agreement with the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles on Timely and Accurate Language Assistance Services
- Department of Justice Reaches Settlement Agreement with California to Ensure Equal Educational Opportunities for English Learners
- Department of Justice Enters Agreement with the Richland County, SC Sheriff’s Department to Ensure Civil Rights Protections for Students
- Department of Justice Finds Title VI and Pattern or Practice Violations by the Baltimore Police Department
- Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Lower Court Ruling Enjoining Indiana from Withholding Payment for Services to Syrian Refugees
- Department of Justice Files Brief Clarifying Intentional Discrimination Standards under Title VI
- Department of Justice Files Brief to Enforce Summary Judgement in Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Maricopa County, AZ, and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
- Department of Justice Publishes Updated and Expanded Segments of its Title VI Legal Manual
- Department of Justice Releases Report on Language Access in State Courts
- Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice Issue Joint Guidance on Child Welfare and Title VI
- Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Transportation Issue Guidance on Title VI Protections in Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery
Department of Justice Reaches Settlement Agreement with the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles on Timely and Accurate Language Assistance Services:
On September 20, DOJ’s Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) of the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California (USAO) reached an agreement (go.usa.gov/xKz4d) with the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles (LASC) to ensure that LEP court users will have access to timely and accurate language assistance services. The agreement resolves an investigation of a complaint alleging that LASC failed to provide LEP individuals with meaningful access to its court services, including civil proceedings and court operations, in violation of Title VI and its implementing regulations. During the investigation, LASC began expanding the services it provided to LEP individuals in all criminal and most civil matters. Under the agreement, LASC will expand free interpreter services in civil matters where not yet provided by December 1, 2017. LASC also agreed to translate local forms, provide broader notice about the availability of free interpreter services for court proceedings, and make it easier to request an interpreter. Under the agreement, LASC will continue to work with community stakeholders and provide FCS and the USAO with periodic updates through the end of 2017. A press release is available at go.usa.gov/xKz4H. The agreement is available in English (go.usa.gov/xKz4d), Spanish (go.usa.gov/xKz4s) and Korean (go.usa.gov/xkG37).
Department of Justice Reaches Settlement Agreement with California to Ensure Equal Educational Opportunities for English Learners:
On September 9, DOJ’s Educational Opportunities Section (EOS) of the Civil Rights Division reached a comprehensive settlement agreement with the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California State Board of Education to improve their compliance monitoring systems and ensure language instruction services to the approximately 1.4 million English Learner (EL) students in the state’s public schools. The settlement resolves DOJ’s May 2015 findings that California’s system for monitoring its public schools’ provision of language services to EL students did not satisfy the state’s obligations under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) of 1974. These obligations closely resemble those of federally funded state education agencies under Title VI, as explained in the 2015 Dear Colleague Letter on EL students and LEP parents issued by DOJ and the Department of Education (go.usa.gov/xkG29). The state cooperated fully during the review.
DOJ concluded that the state had failed to respond appropriately to schools’ certified reports showing that over 20,000 EL students were not receiving instructional language services each school year since 2007 to 2008. The two-year agreement requires the state to undertake several actions, including:
- Respond in a timely and effective manner to credible evidence that schools are failing to serve EL students, including notifying them of violations and providing a protocol by which they must submit to CDE documented evidence that resolves the violations;
- When selecting schools for monitoring reviews, consider their reports of unserved EL students and include charter schools in the selection process for such reviews each year;
- Improve CDE’s online monitoring tool and require that schools found to be out of compliance with specific requirements in this online tool receive onsite monitoring if they fail to provide adequate evidence that the noncompliance has been resolved; and
- Develop and implement policies and training on the monitoring, review and corrective action processes of CDE’s monitoring of schools for EL service violations, and ensure that all EL monitoring consultants receive such training.
Department of Justice Enters Agreement with the Richland County, SC Sheriff’s Department to Ensure Civil Rights Protections for Students:
On August 10, DOJ, through the Office of Justice Programs’ Office for Civil Rights (OJP OCR), entered into an agreement with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) to resolve a civil rights compliance review of its School Resource Officer (SRO) program. The compliance review examined whether the SRO program was discriminating against students based on race, color, national origin, or disability. The agreement requires RCSD to undertake a comprehensive assessment and overhaul of its SRO program, including:
- Developing policies to minimize school-based seizures and arrests and meet the needs of students with disabilities;
- Providing intensive, annual training to its SROs on bias-free policing, de-escalation, and youth development;
- Conducting detailed data collection and analysis; and
- Establishing a community working group to recommend program improvements.
For further information on this matter, please see the agreement (go.usa.gov/xKz48) and associated press release (go.usa.gov/xKz49). OJP OCR is responsible for ensuring that recipients of federal financial assistance from the Office of Justice Programs and its components comply with applicable federal civil rights laws.
Department of Justice Finds Title VI and Pattern or Practice Violations by the Baltimore Police Department:
On August 10, DOJ’s Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division announced that it found reasonable cause to believe that the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, as well as federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title VI. DOJ found that BPD makes stops, searches and arrests without the required justification; uses enforcement strategies that unlawfully subject African-Americans to disproportionate rates of stops, searches and arrests; uses excessive force; and retaliates against individuals for their constitutionally-protected expression. The city and DOJ have entered into an agreement in principle to work together, with community input, to create a federal court-enforceable consent decree addressing the deficiencies found during the investigation.
The agreement in principle highlights specific areas of reform to be included in the consent decree, including:
- Policies, training, data collection and analysis to allow for the assessment of officer activity and to ensure that officers’ actions conform to legal and constitutional requirements;
- Technology and infrastructure to ensure capability to effectively monitor officer activity;
- Officer support to ensure that officers are equipped to perform their jobs effectively and constitutionally; and
- Community policing strategies to guide all aspects of BPD’s operations and help rebuild the relationship between BPD and the various communities it serves.
DOJ will be conducting community outreach to solicit input in developing comprehensive reforms. Comments may be provided by email at Community.Baltimore@usdoj.gov.
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Lower Court Ruling Enjoining Indiana from Withholding Payment for Services to Syrian Refugees:
On October 3, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a district court ruling in Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc. v. Pence et al., 1:15-cv-01858 (7th Cir. Oct. 3, 2016) enjoining Indiana from withholding payments to private refugee resettlement agencies for services provided to Syrian refugees. Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc., a resettlement agency, filed suit alleging the State’s actions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Refugee Act of 1980.
The United States filed briefs in the district court proceedings and at the appellate level. Both briefs argued that the discriminatory treatment of Syrian refugees violates prohibitions of discrimination based on alienage, national origin, and nationality. In order to survive an equal protection or Title VI challenge, such discriminatory treatment must be narrowly tailored to achieving a compelling state interest. The briefs make clear that, while preserving safety and security is a compelling interest, Indiana’s policy of withholding payments for services provided to Syrian refugees is not narrowly tailored to protect that interest and therefore would violate the Equal Protection Clause and Title VI. The district court found that the State’s conduct “clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin.” In affirming the lower court, the 7th Circuit also found the state’s alleged safety and security concerns to be unfounded and unsupported.
In a related matter, the United States had raised similar Title VI concerns in Tex. Health & Human Servs. Comm’n v. United States, No. 3:15-cv-3851, a lawsuit in which Texas sought to prevent the federal government and refugee resettlement agencies from placing Syrian refugees in the state. In preliminary orders, the district court ruled in favor of the United States, declining to “interfere with the executive’s discharge of its foreign affairs and national security duties” in the absence of a demonstration of a substantial threat of irreparable injury or legal right to relief. See Order denying Motion for Injunction, Tex. Health & Human Servs. Comm’n v. United States, No. 3:15-cv-3851 (DCG) (N.D. Tex. Feb. 8, 2016), ECF No. 70. In June 2016, the court dismissed the state’s lawsuit in its entirety. On August 12, Texas appealed the ruling; however on October 7, Texas withdrew its appeal.
Department of Justice Files Brief Clarifying Intentional Discrimination Standards under Title VI:
On September 26, the Civil Rights Division of DOJ (EOS and FCS), filed a brief in Methelus v. School Board of Collier County, Fl., (M.D. Fla.) addressing discrimination under Title VI and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA). The underlying complaint alleged that the school board denied recently-arrived immigrant high school age students equal educational opportunities based on national origin by denying them entry to the local high school and directing them instead to fee-based adult English language courses. The Department’s brief clarifies the applicable standard under the EEOA as established under Castañeda v. Pickard, 648 F.2d 989 (5th Cir. 1981); the application of Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 266 (1977), in a Title VI intent case involving a neutral policy; and the correct interpretation of Mumid v. Abraham Lincoln High Sch., 618 F.3d 789 (8th Cir. 2010). The brief is available at go.usa.gov/xKz46.
Department of Justice Files Brief to Enforce Summary Judgment in Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Maricopa County, AZ, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office:
On September 16, the Civil Rights Division of DOJ filed a brief as appellee in United States v. Maricopa, No. 15-17558 (9th Cir. Sept. 16, 2016), to affirm summary judgment in favor of the United States (go.usa.gov/xkGcD). On appeal, the Department argues that Maricopa County is directly liable for the unlawful policies of its sheriff, and that the district court correctly applied the doctrine of offensive, non-mutual issue preclusion to resolve the merits.
The Department brought this case under 42 U.S.C. 14141 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, alleging that Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discriminatory law enforcement conduct. In December 2015, the county appealed the lower court’s ruling as to the county’s liability for Sheriff Arpaio’s and MCSO’s policies and conduct. The county also appealed the court’s ruling that the county is precluded from re-litigating the court’s findings in Melendres v. Arpaio, a parallel action by private plaintiffs alleging intentional discrimination against Hispanic individuals when MCSO conducted immigration-related law enforcement during traffic stops. 989 F.Supp 2d 822 (D. Ariz. 2013), aff’d in part and vacated in part on other grounds, 784 F.3d 1254 (9th Cir.) (Melendres II), cert. denied, 136 S. Ct 79 (2015). The brief is available at go.usa.gov/xkGc4.
Department of Justice Publishes Updated and Expanded Segments of its Title VI Legal Manual:
On September 27, FCS released the first portion of the updated and expanded Title VI Legal Manual (go.usa.gov/xKz4F). Updated sections cover key concepts under Title VI, including legislative history of Title VI, the role of DOJ, and the scope of Title VI coverage. DOJ issued the Title VI Legal Manual, pursuant to its mandate under Executive Order 12250, to ensure the consistent and effective enforcement of Title VI and related statutes. Publication of the Title VI Legal Manual is a part of DOJ’s ongoing initiative to restructure, reevaluate and strengthen Title VI enforcement government-wide. DOJ will release additional portions of the Manual, with updates that will address conduct prohibited by Title VI, including intentional discrimination, disparate impact, and retaliation in the future. More information on this initiative is available at go.usa.gov/xKz4M.
Department of Justice Releases Report on Language Access in State Courts:
On September 14, FCS released its report, Language Access in State Courts, on the Civil Rights Division’s Courts Language Access Initiative. The report explains the benefits of language access to limited English proficient individuals and to court systems alike. It further outlines the enforcement and technical assistance efforts of the initiative, including case examples and resources. The report is available in English (go.usa.gov/xKz4e) and Spanish (go.usa.gov/xKz4t), with translations in Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese (both Simplified and Traditional) coming soon.
On October 19, DOJ and HHS issued joint guidance (go.usa.gov/xkGD3) to state and local child welfare agencies and courts on the requirements of Title VI and its implementing regulations. Data shows that particular racial and ethnic groups are overrepresented in the child welfare system compared to their numbers in the general population. The guidance provides an overview of Title VI and Frequently Asked Questions on how Title VI applies to child welfare programs and activities, including investigations, assessments, guardianship, removal of children from their homes, reunification, case planning, adoption, and foster care and family court hearings.
The guidance addresses race and language access complaints that the Departments have received. These complaints have alleged unnecessary removal of children from their biological families; biological parents being denied equal access to culturally competent reunification services; denial of relative or kinship placements; unnecessarily long stays in foster care; and family members being denied full and informed participation in family courts and social services because of limited English proficiency. The guidance highlights the clear need for frank and productive discussion about how child welfare laws, policies, practices and implicit bias affect communities of color. The guidance is part of an ongoing partnership between the Departments to help child welfare agencies protect the well-being of children and ensure compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws. The press release can be found here (go.usa.gov/xkGjY).
Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Transportation Issue Guidance on Title VI Protections in Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery:
On August 16, the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation issued joint agency guidance, Guidance to State and Local Governments and Other Federally Assisted Recipients Engaged in Emergency Preparedness, Response, Mitigation, and Recovery Activities on Compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (go.usa.gov/xkGW5) (en Español - go.usa.gov/xkGZ3, Tiếng Việt - go.usa.gov/xkGZw, Kreyòl Ayisyen - go.usa.gov/xkGZS), to recipients of federal financial assistance on the nondiscrimination protections of Title VI in emergency and disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
The guidance provides an overview of the application of Title VI in emergency and disaster management and examples of promising practices that recipients of federal financial assistance can take now, in advance of emergencies and disasters, to ensure Title VI compliance. Notably, the guidance emphasizes that Title VI obligations and protections cannot be waived during emergencies and disasters. Although every emergency or disaster situation will be different and pose its own set of unique challenges, effective planning can help avoid Title VI violations. The guidance highlights that preparation for exigent circumstances, including addressing meaningful access to services and benefits by limited English proficient communities can often make all the difference in preserving the lives of first-responders and the people they help.
Two new resources to assist recipients of federal financial assistance also accompany the guidance: the Department of Justice’s Tips and Tools for Reaching Limited English Proficient Communities in Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery (go.usa.gov/xkGBs) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Checklist for Recipients of Federal Financial Assistance (go.usa.gov/xkGBJ), which facilitates the integration of the whole community into emergency-related activities. The press release announcing the guidance and accompanying materials can be found here (go.usa.gov/xkGKj).
Summer 2016 Newsletter
- Department of Justice Resolves Case after the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts Implements Language Access Reforms
- Department of Justice Closes Case after Colorado Courts Implement Language Access Reforms
- Departments of Education and Justice Reach Two Settlement Agreements with Arizona Department of Education to Meet the Needs of English Language Learner Students
- Department of Justice Provides Title VI Training at National Disability Rights Conference
- Department of Justice Engages Local Leaders in Immigrant Welcoming Campaign
- Department of Justice Co-hosts Bankruptcy Session on “Working with Limited English Proficient Clients”
- Department of Justice Speaks at National Conference on Accessing State Court Interpreters
- Department of Justice Participates in Roundtable Discussion on Immigrant Integration
- Department of Justice Promotes Equal Access in State Courts
- Departments of Education and Justice and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Participate in a White House Roundtable on Bullying and Harassment and Publish Fact Sheet on Combating Discrimination
Department of Justice Resolves Case after the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts Implements Language Access Reforms:
On June 22, the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) of the Civil Rights Division reached resolution (go.usa.gov/xqzBT) in a Title VI investigation of the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts (KAOC). The complaint, received in September 2014, alleged a state court judge’s failure to provide interpreter services to limited English proficient (LEP) parties. During the course of FCS’s review, the KAOC strengthened its language access programming. FCS’s technical assistance included working with the KAOC to create and implement a language services complaint system, which will be translated into a dozen non-English languages. Additionally, FCS trained court staff on the importance of providing appropriate language services and developing systems to improve the efficiency and quality of interpreter services and translations. As a condition of closure, the KAOC agreed to a 12-month monitoring period, during which it will provide quarterly updates to FCS regarding developments related to providing language services, as well as any new complaints alleging failure to provide appropriate language assistance services.
A press release and additional information is available at: go.usa.gov/xqzBm.
Department of Justice Closes Case after Colorado Courts Implement Language Access Reforms:
On June 21, DOJ FCS closed a Title VI case concerning the provision of language assistance to LEP individuals by the Colorado state courts following the successful implementation of reforms by the Colorado Judicial Department (CJD). This matter began after FCS received an administrative complaint alleging that the state courts were not providing LEP parties with interpreters in civil proceedings. In 2011, the CJD signed a memorandum of agreement (go.usa.gov/xqzBJ) with DOJ and amended Chief Justice Directive 06-03 to mandate that, effective immediately, qualified interpreters and other approved language assistance would be provided at no charge for LEP individuals in all court proceedings, services and programs. The CJD’s Office of Language Access issued a DOJ approved, comprehensive strategic plan (go.usa.gov/xqzKQ) in 2012 that defined 35 needed improvements to court policies, standards, infrastructure and training in order to support the court system’s ability to deliver timely and appropriate language assistance statewide. This year, the courts completed the improvements specified in the plan and complied with the monitoring provisions of the memorandum of agreement. The Chief Justice Directive (go.usa.gov/xqzKQ) was updated on May 31. This case is one of several undertaken by FCS as part of its ongoing Courts Language Access Initiative (go.usa.gov/x3q4j).
A press release and additional information is available at: go.usa.gov/xqzZR.
Departments of Education and Justice Reach Two Settlement Agreements with Arizona Department of Education to Meet the Needs of English Language Learner Students:
On May 2 and April 22, ED and DOJ entered into two settlement agreements with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to resolve its violations of Title VI and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) regarding its practices for identifying and exiting English language learner (ELL) students. ADE denies the violations but voluntarily entered into the agreements because the services therein are in the best interest of Arizona’s children. The agreements require ADE to increase its English proficiency criteria to properly identify ELL students in kindergarten and in grades 3 through 12 and to properly determine when those students no longer need language services. The agreements also require ADE to ensure that Arizona public schools offer language support services to thousands of students who were prematurely moved out of language services or initially identified incorrectly as fluent English proficient from the 2012-2013 school year to the present. Additionally, for ELL students who opt out of language services, ADE must ensure that those students’ English language proficiency is assessed every year until they are proficient in English.
These agreements arise from monitoring by ED and DOJ of a 2012 settlement agreement with ADE that aimed to resolve their findings that ADE had under-identified and prematurely removed the ELL status and language services of tens of thousands of ELL students between 2006 and 2012. ED and DOJ will continue to monitor the implementation of both agreements through 2018.
Department of Justice Provides Title VI Training at National Disability Rights Conference:
On June 15, the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) provided training to attorneys and advocates attending the National Disability Rights Network P&A/CAP Annual Conference in Baltimore, MD. The training focused on Title VI obligations of recipients of federal financial assistance, including the requirement to provide meaningful access to limited English proficient (LEP) individuals, recently proposed and final federal non-discrimination regulations, and the Title VI complaint and enforcement process with recent case and enforcement examples.
Department of Justice Engages Local Leaders in Immigrant Welcoming Campaign:
On June 2, FCS provided an overview of basic legal requirements for language access at the local level for the Language Access Technical Assistance Cluster of the White House Building Welcoming Communities Campaign (BWCC). Sponsored by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), BWCC briefing conference calls focused on the topics identified by participating BWCC counties and cities as key concerns and issues in the area of immigrant integration. The calls allowed participants to hear from federal agency representatives and learn about promising practices from other cities and counties. In addition to reviewing the legal requirements, BWCC counties and cities also discussed how to develop effective language access plans that meet the needs of single or multiple agencies. As a starting point, MPI distributed FCS guidance, Common Language Access Questions, Technical Assistance, and Guidance for Federally Conducted and Federally Assisted Programs (go.usa.gov/xqEDe), to ensure that all participants have sufficient background in the topic area.
Department of Justice Co-hosts Bankruptcy Session on “Working with Limited English Proficient Clients”:
On May 22, FCS co-presented a workshop on “Working with Limited English Proficient Clients” at the annual convention of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys in San Francisco, CA. FCS also provided a two-hour Title VI language access training to legal services lawyers and domestic violence non-profit staff on May 20, at a session hosted by the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence in Oakland, CA.
Department of Justice Speaks at National Conference on Accessing State Court Interpreters:
On May 14, FCS provided keynote remarks at the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators Annual Conference in San Antonio, TX, addressing access to state court interpreters for LEP individuals. Attendees of the conference included state and federal court interpreters and translators from across the country.
Department of Justice Participates in Roundtable Discussion on Immigrant Integration:
On May 13, FCS led a roundtable discussion on language access at a White House Regional Convening on New Americans in Dearborn, MI. At this regional convening, approximately 50 federal, state, and local agencies, service providers, the private sector, and local community leaders met to highlight current multi-sector partnerships on immigrant integration and discuss promising practices to strengthen the regional infrastructure in supporting existing and emerging immigrant communities. FCS discussed essential elements of successful language access program planning, including use of demographic and mapping data, and helped agencies strategize how to provide LEP individuals with meaningful access to federally-funded programs and activities. Other federal partners participating in this convening included the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Small Business Administration. This convening is part of a series of regional convenings hosted by the White House Task Force on New Americans (go.usa.gov/xTgY5).
Department of Justice Promotes Equal Access in State Courts:
On May 11, FCS spoke at the launch of the Justice Index 2016 (justiceindex.org) in Chicago, IL. The National Center for Access to Justice (ncforaj.org) created the Justice Index to improve access to justice and relies on data to improve state justice systems.
Departments of Education and Justice and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Participate in a White House Roundtable on Bullying and Harassment and Publish Fact Sheet on Combating Discrimination:
On June 6, ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and DOJ’s Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division (CRT) participated in the roundtable on bullying and harassment of Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian (MASSA) students convened by the White House. This roundtable was a continuation of a series of roundtables the President and White House have hosted with MASSA communities since December 2015. Events such as this highlight the intersection of discrimination based on race and national origin, with discrimination based on religion. ED OCR and CRT enforce Title VI (which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national origin) and CRT enforces Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which prohibits discrimination based on, among other things, race, color, national origin, and religion). The offices work together to address discrimination targeting MASSA and Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) students. At the event, ED OCR and CRT announced the release of a fact sheet of examples of harassment and other forms of discrimination impacting the MASSA and AANHPI communities. The fact sheet is available on the OCR and CRT websites in English (go.usa.gov/xqPFk) and other languages (go.usa.gov/xqEqj).
Spring 2016 Newsletter Updates
- Federal Agencies Celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Executive Order 13166 at a Convening of the Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency
- Department of Labor and DOJ Reach Agreement with Washington State to Improve Workers’ Comp Access for LEP Workers
- DOJ and Department of Education File a Brief to Ensure Meaningful Access for LEP Parents of Students with Disabilities
- DOJ Asserts Title VI National Origin Discrimination in Syrian Refugee Resettlement Lawsuits
- DOJ Files Lawsuit and Consent Decree to Bring Constitutional Policing to Ferguson, Missouri
- DOJ Files Brief Addressing Race Discrimination Claims by Gullah Geechee Community of Sapelo Island, GA
- DOJ Present at NLADA Webinar on School-to-Prison Pipeline
- DOJ Staff Present at Title VI & Environmental Justice Workshop
- DOJ Co-hosts Webinar on Accessing LEP Poverty Data
- DOJ Participates in White House Regional Convening on New Americans
- DOJ Engages Advocates at Two New Orleans Conferences
- DOJ Co-hosts Child Welfare & Race Listening Session
- DOJ Meets with Environmental Justice Advocates
- DOJ Engages Local Leaders on Language Access in White House Convening
- Update on the Courts Language Access Initiative
Federal Agencies Celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Executive Order 13166 at a Convening of the Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency:
On December 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services hosted a convening of the Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency (IWG) in commemoration of the 15thanniversary of Executive Order 13166. The meeting was headlined by Leon Rodriguez, Director of USCIS, and Megan Mack, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, from the Department of Homeland Security; Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and Deeana Jang, Chief of the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section, of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division; and Doua Thor, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The IWG recognized federal efforts to advance language access since the passage of Executive Order 13166 in a report of agency accomplishments (go.usa.gov/cnHJH) and planned committees to address providing language assistance to LEP individuals. For more information on language access and Executive Order 13166, visit www.LEP.gov.
Department of Labor and DOJ Reach Agreement with Washington State to Improve Workers’ Comp Access for LEP Workers:
On October 1, the Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division reached an agreement with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to resolve civil rights complaints from LEP workers who alleged that they were subjected to national origin discrimination in the state’s workers’ compensation program. L&I signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) (go.usa.gov/cnHJV) and developed a new Language Access Policy (go.usa.gov/cnHJj) that will implement significant improvements in the language assistance services L&I provides its LEP customers. Under the terms of the MOA, L&I commits to developing a Language Access Plan that sets out the management actions needed to implement their Language Access Policy and ensure compliance with federal civil rights laws. Other L&I commitments include providing effective language assistance services to its LEP customers at no cost and translating documents and electronic materials that are vital for LEP individuals to access L&I services and activities. L&I will also add advisory members to its Language Access Steering Committee to represent the interests of LEP workers and the Washington employer community.
For more information, a press release is available in English and Spanish, and a fact sheet is available in Spanish, Chinese simplified, Chinese traditional, Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, Khmer, and Laotian.
DOJ and Department of Education File a Brief to Ensure Meaningful Access for LEP Parents of Students with Disabilities:
On January 25, DOJ and the Department of Education filed a brief to advise the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania about the appropriate legal standards applicable to school districts under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA) for communicating with LEP parents. The brief seeks to ensure that school districts afford LEP parents of students with disabilities the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the development of their children’s education programs. In their lawsuit, the LEP parents of students with disabilities allege that the Philadelphia School District intentionally discriminates against them based on their national origin, in violation of Title VI, by systematically failing to provide timely and complete translations and interpretation of educational materials (e.g., individualized educational plans).
The brief explains that the plaintiffs adequately alleged intentional national origin discrimination under the framework established by Arlington Heights and the Third Circuit’s standard for deliberate indifference under Title VI. The brief further supports plaintiffs’ claims that the School District violated the EEOA by failing to take appropriate action to overcome the language barriers of LEP parents and thereby denied their children the ability to participate equally in the District’s instructional programs.
DOJ Asserts Title VI National Origin Discrimination in Syrian Refugee Resettlement Lawsuits:
On February 29, a federal court in the Southern District of Indiana ruled (go.usa.gov/cMmZR) that the State of Indiana could not refuse to provide assistance to Syrian refugees in Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc. v. Pence, No. 15-cv-1858. In granting a preliminary injunction in favor of the plaintiff Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc., the court said: “The State’s conduct clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin. Although the State says it has a compelling reason for doing so—the safety of Indiana residents—the withholding of federal grant funds from Exodus that it would use to provide social services to Syrian refugees in no way furthers the State’s asserted interest in the safety of Indiana residents.”
The ruling was consistent with the brief filed by DOJ (go.usa.gov/cMm9d) on February 11. The brief set forth the appropriate application of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Title VI, and the Refugee Act of 1980 to state refugee resettlement policies, and argued that the discriminatory treatment of Syrian refugees violates prohibitions of discrimination based on alienage, national origin, and nationality. In order to survive an equal protection or Title VI challenge, such discriminatory treatment must be narrowly tailored to achieving a compelling state interest. The brief makes clear that, while preserving safety and security is a compelling interest, Indiana’s policy of withholding payments for services provided to Syrian refugees is not narrowly tailored to protect that interest and therefore would violate the Equal Protection Clause and Title VI. On March 8, 2016, Indiana filed an appeal.
DOJ also raised Title VI concerns in Tex. Health & Human Servs. Comm’n v. United States, No. 3:15-cv-3851 a lawsuit in which Texas seeks to prevent the federal government and refugee resettlement agencies from placing Syrian refugees in the state. In a January brief, the United States argued that it would be against the public interest to stop the settlement of Syrian refugees in Texas because, among other things, “a State’s refusal to provide federally funded resettlement assistance to refugees on the basis of their Syrian nationality would violate…Title VI of the Civil Rights Act….” See Federal Defendants’ Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction at 25 n.10, Tex. Health & Human Servs. Comm’n v. United States, No. 3:15-cv-3851 (DCG) (N.D. Tex. Jan. 5, 2016), ECF No. 46. In preliminary orders, the court ruled in favor of the United States, declining to “interfere with the executive’s discharge of its foreign affairs and national security duties” in the absence of a demonstration of a substantial threat of irreparable injury or legal right to relief. See Order denying Motion for Injunction, Tex. Health & Human Servs. Comm’n v. United States, No. 3:15-cv-3851 (DCG) (N.D. Tex. Feb. 8, 2016), ECF No. 70.
DOJ Files Lawsuit and Consent Decree to Bring Constitutional Policing to Ferguson, Missouri:
On March 17, 2016, DOJ and the City of Ferguson, Missouri, jointly filed an agreement resolving the United States’ pending lawsuit against Ferguson (go.usa.gov/cMmzH). The court-enforceable decree, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, aims to remedy the unconstitutional law enforcement conduct that DOJ found during its civil pattern-or-practice investigation into the Ferguson Police Department and the Ferguson Municipal Court. Under the agreement, Ferguson will implement reforms to bring about constitutional and effective policing, promote officer and public safety, ensure fundamental fairness and equal treatment regardless of race in the Municipal Court and foster greater trust between police officers and the communities they serve. On April 19, Judge Catherine Perry of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri approved the consent decree.
In March 2015, DOJ detailed its investigative findings in a 104-page report. The report found that Ferguson’s focus on generating revenue over public safety, together with racial bias, has had a profound effect on Ferguson’s police and court practices, resulting in conduct that routinely violates the Constitution and federal civil rights laws. On January 26, DOJ sent a letter to Ferguson City councilmembers (go.usa.gov/cMmGh) outlining the consent decree negotiated by the city’s team and DOJ. On Feb. 9, the Ferguson City Council voted to reject that consent decree. Unable to reach a mutually agreed upon court-enforceable settlement to remedy the findings, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced on February 10, that the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city of Ferguson, Missouri (go.usa.gov/cMmy9), alleging a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution and federal civil rights laws, including Title VI.
The complaint alleged that from October 2012 to October 2014, African-Americans were more than twice as likely to be searched, to receive a citation or to be arrested, than other stopped individuals. From 2010 to August 2014, African- Americans accounted for 88 percent of all incidents in which a Ferguson police officer reported using force. In addition, for municipal offenses where Ferguson police officers have a high degree of discretion in charging, African-Americans were again disproportionately represented as compared to their relative representation in Ferguson. While African-Americans make up 67 percent of the Ferguson’s population, 95 percent of “manner of walking in roadway” charges; 94 percent of failure to comply charges; 92 percent of resisting arrest charges; 92 percent of disturbing the peace charges; and 89 percent of failure to obey charges involved African-Americans. DOJ also found that Ferguson’s law enforcement conduct has created a lack of trust between the police department and the community members it serves, especially African-Americans.
DOJ Files Brief Addressing Race Discrimination Claims by Gullah Geechee Community of Sapelo Island, GA:
On March 21, the Department of Justice filed a brief (http://go.usa.gov/cur6w) setting forth the interests of the United States in Drayton v. McIntosh County, Georgia, No. 2:16-CV-5 (S.D. Ga.). The Plaintiffs in that case are members of the Gullah Geechee community, descendents of slaves, who are current, former, and prospective land owners and residents of Sapelo Island in McIntosh County, Georgia, and two organizations that have assisted them. On December 9, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act by Defendants McIntosh County, the State of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and others. Plaintiffs allege that these Defendants have denied them numerous services for decades such as safe water, sewer service, trash removal, and paved roads available to the predominantly white mainland residents of McIntosh County, because of their race. In arguing for dismissal of the Title VI claims, State Defendants asserted that Eleventh Amendment immunity precludes the Title VI claim against them, and both the State and County Defendants contended that Plaintiffs could not bring Title VI claims because they were not the intended beneficiaries of the federal funds Defendants received. The brief filed by DOJ addresses waiver of States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity for Title VI claims and sets forth the appropriate elements of a prima facie Title VI claim, which does not require Plaintiffs to be the intended beneficiaries of the specific grant or funds the Defendants receive. The brief also discusses the application of Title VI to all the operations of a State or local government department, agency or other instrumentality receiving federal financial assistance. In addition, DOJ addressed challenges to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) claims, and concurrently filed a second brief and motion to intervene addressing the Americans with Disabilities Act claims.
DOJ Present at NLADA Webinar on School-to-Prison Pipeline:
On March 23, DOJ staff presented at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s Webinar Civil Rights Enforcement Actions to Dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline. DOJ Civil Rights Division’s Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS), Special Litigation Section and Educational Opportunities Section, the Office of Justice Programs, and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights participated. An audience of over 200 people registered to participate in this webinar.
DOJ Staff Present at Title VI & Environmental Justice Workshop:
On March 11, Civil Rights Division staff and members of the Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group’s Title VI subcommittee presented a workshop entitled “Title VI of the Civil Rights Act: Strengthening Title VI Enforcement Related to Environmental Justice Issues.” This interactive workshop provided participants with an overview of Title VI; its application to environmental justice issues; and information on how to file an administrative complaint with a federal agency and how such complaints are processed. Participants had the opportunity to dialogue with representatives from multiple federal civil rights agencies (HUD, EPA, DOT, and USDA), who discussed how their agencies are strengthening their Title VI enforcement and compliance activities. Representatives from community organizations and various federal agencies attended the workshop.
DOJ Co-hosts Webinar on Accessing LEP Poverty Data:
On March 10, FCS staff presented a webinar on How to Access and Use Limited English Proficient Poverty Data through the National Language Access Advocates Network (NLAAN). This webinar provided step-by-step instructions on how to access the American Community Survey (ACS) from the U.S. Census Bureau to examine data on the intersection of LEP populations and household income. Participants learned how to access the LEP and household income data, use Excel to cross-tabulate the poverty rate of LEP populations, and summarize the data in easy to understand statistics.
DOJ Participates in White House Regional Convening on New Americans:
On March 10, FCS staff led a roundtable discussion on language access at a White House Regional Convening on New Americans in Atlanta, GA. At this regional convening, federal, state, and local agencies, service providers, the private sector, and local community leaders met to highlight current multi-sector partnerships on immigrant integration and discuss promising practices to strengthen the regional infrastructure in supporting existing and emerging immigrant communities. FCS staff discussed essential elements of successful language access program planning in order to help agencies ensure access to information and services through effective in-language policies. This convening is part of a series of regional convenings and the White House Task Force on New Americans’ plan to engage with communities across the country.
DOJ Engages Advocates at Two New Orleans Conferences:
From November 5 to 7, FCS staff participated in or led five presentations at the Annual Conference of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and the Annual Convention of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. Session topics included: (1) collaborative approaches to improving language access in the courts; (2) combating discrimination in emergencies and disasters with Title VI and Executive Order 13166, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina; (3) language access remedies; (4) language access in the federal and state courts and administrative agencies – state of affairs and recommendations for further improvements; and (5) language access rights to services and agencies, 15 years after EO 13166. The sessions, attended by over a hundred advocates and officials, featured expert attorneys, judges, court administrators, and other federal agency representatives.
DOJ Co-hosts Child Welfare & Race Listening Session:
On October 13, FCS staff along with staff from the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights, and the Children’s Bureau at the HHS Administration for Children and Families, hosted a Child Welfare & Race Listening Session. Although data show improvements over time in providing stability and permanency for children and families generally, African-American children and their families continue to be disproportionately represented in child welfare systems throughout the country. Child welfare advocates from across the country shared their insights with DOJ, HHS, and staff from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security.
DOJ Meets with Environmental Justice Advocates:
On September 11, DOJ held a listening session with Title VI environmental justice advocates representing 17 advocacy organizations and public interest law groups. The Assistant Attorneys General of the Civil Rights Division and the Environment and Natural Resources Division jointly led the meeting. FCS also facilitated a second conversation between advocates and the Community Relations Services (CRS) on the role that CRS might play as communities struggle to overcome barriers to environmental justice. CRS staff provided an overview of the work of the office and provided contact information for the regional offices that can follow up on advocates’ specific concerns. Visit www.justice.gov to learn more about CRS (www.justice.gov/crs) and DOJ’s environmental justice efforts (www.justice.gov/ej).
DOJ Engages Local Leaders on Language Access in White House Convening:
On October 7, FCS staff led roundtable discussions focused on language access at the White House Task Force for New Americans’ Building Welcoming Communities Convening. The event provided representatives from approximately 35 state and local government agencies an opportunity to meet with federal agency staff to discuss pressing immigrant integration challenges. Attendees discussed the cost and logistics of implementing a language access plan, shared challenges and opportunities in establishing language access policies, and sought specific advice on hiring multilingual employees and using community-based organizations to assist with translations. The purpose of the session was to help communities striving to be more welcoming to LEP immigrants.
Update on the Courts Language Access Initiative:
In April 2016, DOJ announced the closure (go.usa.gov/cur25) of its Title VI language access investigation of the Rhode Island Judiciary following a successful completion of the settlement agreement (go.usa.gov/cuxsH) terms and a monitoring period. Earlier this spring, on March 1, the American Bar Association Journal published an article on access to justice for limited English proficient court users [external link], and featured national efforts, including Civil Rights Division guidance and enforcement efforts (go.usa.gov/cMyWH) that have improved access to courts for LEP individuals. The article also discussed ongoing challenges for LEP court users. In other news, a recent federal 9th Circuit Court decision cited the Department of Justice’s 2002 LEP Guidance in discussing the critical need for court interpretation for LEP individuals. United States v. Murguia-Rodriguez, No. 14-10400, 2016 WL 791241, (9th Cir. Mar. 1, 2016). And in November, the current Acting Chief of FCS met with the leadership of the Conference of State Court Administrators and Language Access Advisory Committee, as well as the President of the National Center for State Courts and the Executive Director of the State Justice Institute to continue the dialogue around expansion of language assistance services in state courts.
SUMMER 2015 Newsletter Updates
- DOJ and Mohave County Arizona Courts (MCSC) Work to Ensure Equal Access for Non-English Speakers
- Justice Department Reaches Settlement in Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Maricopa County, Arizona, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office
- UPDATE: Parties in Historic Title VI Language Access Case, Lau v. Nichols, Reach Agreement in Modified Consent Decree
- The Civil Rights Division Releases New Mapping Tools
- Website Improvements at LEP.GOV
DOJ and Mohave County Arizona Courts (MCSC) Work to Ensure Equal Access for Non-English Speakers:
On May 11, DOJ announced a resolution of its review of the Language Access Program of the Mohave County, Arizona Superior Court. The resolution follows MCSC successfully completing its obligations under an agreement to provide language assistance services to all limited English proficient (LEP) court users. MCSC made significant improvements to services for LEP court users including: providing all LEP parties, witnesses, and victims with interpreters, free of charge; obtaining and utilizing equipment to provide video remote interpretation; and training staff on the improved language access plans, policies, and procedures.
Press Release at go.usa.gov/362NV.
Resolution Letter at go.usa.gov/362NH.
Justice Department Reaches Settlement in Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Maricopa County, Arizona, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office: On July 17, the Civil Rights Division announced it has reached a partial settlement in its civil rights lawsuit against Maricopa County, Arizona, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio. The settlement resolves the United States’ claims that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) conducted unlawful detentions of Hispanics during worksite raids of local businesses in violation of the Fourth and 14th Amendments and Title VI, and retaliated against critics of Sheriff Arpaio and MCSO in violation of the First Amendment. The parties filed a joint motion requesting that the federal district court in Arizona approve and agree to enforce the settlement agreement. The motion is still pending. The parties also reached a separate settlement, which was effective on signing, resolving the United States’ claim that MCSO failed to provide adequate language access for limited English proficient Hispanics in MCSO jails in violation of Title VI.
Press release and links to the settlement agreement and other background information at go.usa.gov/362nC.
UPDATE: Parties in Historic Title VI Language Access Case, Lau v. Nichols, Reach Agreement in Modified Consent Decree: On June 24, 2015, the parties in the historic case of Lau v. Nichols, first decided in 1974, jointly filed a motion and supporting memo seeking court approval of a Modified Consent Decree (MCD) to resolve the United States’ and private plaintiff’s consistent concerns about the San Francisco Unified School District’s (SFUSD) compliance with a 2008 court order and Master Plan governing SFUSD’s services and practices for English Learner (EL) students. The MCD, approved by the court on June 29, 2015, requires SFUSD to, among other things: promptly identify, assess, and place EL students in effective EL programs; offer a range of EL programs and services to meet the needs of all EL students, including new students, students with disabilities, and long-term EL students; expand translation and interpretation services for limited English proficient families; adequately train employees who serve EL students so that they can fulfill their roles; and conduct robust monitoring. The MCD also protects the educational rights of the district’s at-risk and vulnerable EL students who are learning in alternative education or juvenile justice settings. If SFUSD implements the MCD fully and in good faith, the MCD and this historic case are expected to end in the fall of 2018.
The Civil Rights Division Releases New Mapping Tools:
The Division’s first mapping application, the Language Map App, allows users to view and download data from an interactive map. The interactive maps provide data on the languages spoken by LEP populations at the State and County level for all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. In addition, a series of printable maps, located at lep.gov/maps, provide both the number and percentage of LEP individuals in each region. County and judicial district maps provide the top five languages spoken by LEP individuals within those areas in the form of detailed pie charts.
Website Improvements at LEP.GOV:
The Civil Rights Division is continuing a series of updates to LEP.GOV. The most recent changes include a reorganization of the State Courts portion of the webpage, which is now organized by state. Explore the newly organized resources at go.usa.gov/362Rk.
Spring 2015 newsletter updates
- Hawai’i Courts Improve Language Access
- Summary Judgment Denied in FACE v. Hawai’i Dep’t of Transportation (HDOT)
- Language Access Training Videos Launched
- DOJ Leads Panel at 2015 National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program
- DOJ Launches Federal Webinar Training on Title VI Enforcement and Compliance
- DOJ Provides Technical Assistance to Hawai'i Police
- DOJ and HHS to Issue Guidance on Title VI in Child Welfare
Hawai’i Courts Improve Language Access: On March 24, the Department of Justice announced the successful completion of its review of the Hawai’i Judiciary’s Language Access Program, which included providing the state court’s system with substantial technical assistance. As a result of DOJ’s efforts, the court system agreed to issue a clear policy stating that all limited English proficient individuals would be provided competent court interpretation free of charge; implement an awareness campaign to increase the public’s knowledge on how to access the court’s language services; create a language assistance complaint system; revise its court interpreter assignment system, training interpreters and providing mandatory training for judicial staff on the interpreter assignment process; and implement oversight measures to ensure that the language access program complies with Title VI. The Judiciary is committed to continuing this work and will seek ongoing assistance from the Department.
Closure letter: go.usa.gov/3ZjpB
Press Release: go.usa.gov/3ZjpQ
Summary Judgment Denied in FACE v. Hawai’i Dep’t of Transportation (HDOT): In this matter, plaintiffs allege that HDOT intentionally discriminates based on national origin, violating Title VI and the Equal Protection clause, because of HDOT’s failure to provide language services for the Hawai’i driver’s license exam. The DOJ Civil Rights Division filed a Statement of Interest arguing that HDOT, (1) as a recipient of federal financial assistance, was on notice of its obligation to provide language services; (2) that such services must be provided on a timely basis; (3) that a failure to provide timely language access services can constitute evidence of intentional discrimination in violation of Title VI and that HDOT’s proffered facts are appropriately viewed as evidence of intent; and (4) that a Federal Transit Administration 2010 compliance review used by HDOT as evidence of compliance with Title VI did not address driver’s license administration. On February 23, the United States District Court for the District of Hawai’i issued an order denying the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, adopting the legal standard supported by the United States regarding intentional discrimination in Title VI cases.
Language Access Training Videos Launched:
On April 23, the Federally Conducted Committee of the Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency (LEP) launched a language access video training series for federal employees. The Department of Justice organized the launch event on behalf of the IWG. The videos, which will be posted on LEP.gov, highlight the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division and the Chief of Staff of the Social Security Administration keynoted the event and the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders provided comments. Speakers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Community Relations Service, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties provided guidance on using the materials. Among the attendees are the Chief Learning Officers of several agencies. The videos, which will be posted on LEP.gov, provide a variety of useful tips and tools for working with LEP individuals. Recipients of federal financial assistance should consider incorporating the information found in these videos to enhance their efforts, as required by Title VI, to ensure meaningful access by limited English proficient populations.
DOJ Leads Panel at 2015 National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program:
On March 12, the Department of Justice led a roundtable discussion at the National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program focused on stakeholder engagement with federal civil rights offices to improve enforcement of Title VI in environmental justice matters. Panelists included representatives from the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, Earthjustice, and other advocacy organizations.
DOJ Launches Federal Webinar Training on Title VI Enforcement and Compliance:
On February 24, the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, presented a Title VI Foundational Webinar Training for over 200 federal civil rights employees from 15 different agencies across the federal government. Attendees included staff in Washington and regional offices around the country. This training was part of the government-wide coordination initiative announced by the Acting Assistant Attorney General in her July 24, 2014 memorandum to Title VI federal civil rights staff, acknowledging the 50th anniversary of Title VI. This foundational training will be followed by more advanced trainings on complex issues in Title VI jurisprudence and enforcement.
DOJ Provides Technical Assistance to Hawai'i Police:
In March, 2015, staff from the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division travelled to Hawai’i to train local police and public safety officers from several islands on Title VI and language access. Participants in the training learned about working with limited English proficient individuals, using telephone interpretation services, and translating vital documents. The technical assistance provided by DOJ is available to other federal funding recipients on request.
winter 2015 newsletter updates
- Departments of Education and Justice Release Guidance Concerning the Applicability of Federal Civil Rights Laws to Juvenile Justice Residential Facilities
- DOJ and ED Issue Joint Guidance on Overcoming Language Barriers in Schools
- UPDATE: Hawaii Department of Transportation
- UPDATE: CA Courts Take Another Step Toward Meaningful Access for LEP Litigants in Civil Proceedings
- Illinois Courts Improve Language Access Statewide
- Rule Change Ensures Washington D.C. Residents Broader Language Access in the Courts
- DOJ and DHS Participate in Joint Public Webinars Exploring Challenges to Immigrant Children and Families
Departments of Education and Justice Release Guidance Concerning the Applicability of Federal Civil Rights Laws to Juvenile Justice Residential Facilities:
The Departments of Education and the Justice issued a Dear Colleague Letter on December 8, 2014, concerning the applicability of federal civil rights laws to juvenile justice residential facilities. The letter provides a reminder that juvenile justice residential facilities receiving federal funds are subject to the same federal civil rights obligations as all other public schools, and highlights some of the legal requirements related to access to academic coursework and career and vocational training, students with disabilities, English language learners, and the administration of discipline (at: go.usa.gov/JRXP).
DOJ and ED Issue Joint Guidance on Overcoming Language Barriers in Schools:
On January 7, 2015, the Departments of Justice and Education issued a joint guidance on the obligations of state educational agencies and school districts to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by students in their instructional programs. The guidance was issued pursuant to the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It addresses matters vital to ensuring meaningful and equal participation in education programs and services for the approximately 5 million English Learner (EL) students in the United States. The guidance includes, among other things, an outline of the civil rights obligations of state education agencies and schools, frequently encountered civil rights issues and the approaches schools could take to remedy it, and the legal obligations for schools to ensure that limited English proficient parents can meaningfully access school-related information. The guidance also speaks to the requirements to serve EL students with disabilities under the American with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Individuals with Disabilities Act.
The Guidance is located at go.usa.gov/t7jB.
UPDATE: Hawaii Department of Transportation: The summer issue of Title VI Civil Rights News @FCS highlighted a Statement of Interest that FCS filed in Faith Action for Community Equity v. Hawai’i Department of Transportation, No. 13-cv-00450 SOM, 2014 WL 1691622 (D. Haw. Apr. 28, 2014). The private plaintiffs’ complaint alleged that the Hawai’i Department of Transportation denied LEP individuals a meaningful opportunity to take the Hawai’i driver’s license examination. On January 13, 2015, the Department of Justice filed a second Statement of Interest with the District of Hawaii.
UPDATE: CA Courts Take Another Step Toward Meaningful Access for LEP Litigants in Civil Proceedings
The fall issue of Title VI Civil Rights News @FCS highlighted a new state law in California that, among other things, removed the requirement to charge limited English proficient (LEP) litigants for interpreter costs in civil proceedings, sets forth an intention to provide interpreters consistent with federal legal requirements, and clarifies that state courts may provide interpreters free of charge regardless of the income of the parties. On January 22, 2015, the California Judicial Council adopted a comprehensive language access plan that provides a strategy for implementing free language services in all California State court proceedings and operations and will ensure that millions of limited English proficient individuals will have meaningful access to the state justice system. The plan reflects extensive stakeholder and Department of Justice input and will serve as an important and effective model for other states. The Judicial Council adopted the language access plan with no objection. The language access plan is another important step by the California courts to resolve the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California joint Title VI investigation of the California Judicial Council and the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The Strategic Plan for Language Access in the California Courts is located at http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/jc-20150122-itemK.pdf
Illinois Courts Improve Language Access Statewide:
Effective October 1, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court’s Language Access Policy, Code of Interpreter Ethics, and sample judicial bench card provide new, powerful tools to ensure meaningful access to the courts for limited English proficient communities in Illinois. The Illinois circuit courts are in the process of drafting language access plans, to be posted online this spring. Details are available at go.usa.gov/JRN9.
Rule Change Ensures Washington D.C. Residents Broader Language Access in the Courts:
The D.C. Courts have issued a new rule, Order 14-15, providing interpreters to all “…non-English and limited English proficient persons participating in court proceedings involving all case types in all divisions of the Superior Court, and to pay the cost for such services, unless such services are waived by the participant.” View the new rule at go.usa.gov/JRNT.
DOJ and DHS Participate in Joint Public Webinars Exploring Challenges to Immigrant Children and Families:
On December 15 and 18, 2014, the Department of Justice, Federal Coordination and Compliance Section, and Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, participated in two free webinars open to child welfare personnel, legal professionals, advocates, and other community members working with immigrant populations. The two sessions, Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status –What Judicial Officers and Court Stakeholders Need to Know and Immigrant Families - How to Best Serve Them, were presented by Casey Family Programs, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the American Bar Association, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Participants focused on exploring the complexities that arise when working with immigrant families, including the implications of Title VI.
fall 2014 Newsletter Updates
- Department of Justice and New Jersey Department of Corrections Enter Into Agreement to Improve Language Assistance Services for Limited English Proficient Inmates
- CA Courts Take Another Step Toward Meaningful Access for LEP Litigants in Civil Proceedings
- Departments of Education and Justice Release Guidance on Non-Discrimination in Enrollment Procedures on the Basis of Immigration Status
- Departments of Education and Justice Release Letter on Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action Decision
Department of Justice and New Jersey Department of Corrections Enter Into Agreement to Improve Language Assistance Services for Limited English Proficient Inmates:
The Federal Coordination and Compliance Section of the Civil Rights Division has reached an agreement with the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) to resolve allegations that the NJDOC denied or inadequately provided medical and mental health services, disciplinary and other administrative hearings, education classes and treatment programs to limited English proficient inmates. The memorandum of agreement memorializes, and incorporates by reference, the language access policies and procedures NJDOC has implemented.
CA Courts Take Another Step Toward Meaningful Access for LEP Litigants in Civil Proceedings:
On September 28, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a statute into law that, among other things, removes the requirement to charge limited English proficient (LEP) litigants for interpreter costs in civil proceedings, sets forth an intention to provide interpreters consistent with federal legal requirements, and clarifies that state courts may provide interpreters free of charge regardless of the income of the parties. This statute is major step forward to resolving the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California (USAO) investigation of a complaint, filed by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, alleging a failure to provide LEP individuals with meaningful access in civil proceedings and court operations. The California state court system has made a commitment to resolve the complaint voluntarily and FCS and USAO are negotiating the terms of that compliance. As part of the process to define the terms of voluntary resolution, FCS and USAO have sought input from court officials and staff, legal practitioners, advocates, and other stakeholders. The California state court system has also sought feedback from stakeholders on its draft language access plan through several public hearings, stakeholder meetings, and through a formal public comment process held July 31-September 29, 2014. The draft plan identifies the steps the court system will take to provide free language services to LEP individuals in all civil proceedings and court operations.
Information about the language access plan process: http://go.usa.gov/wgkz
Final text of AB1657 as enacted: http://go.usa.gov/wg8C
Departments of Education and Justice Release Guidance on Non-Discrimination in Enrollment Procedures on the Basis of Immigration Status:
The Department of Education and the Department of Justice released guidance on May 8, 2014, regarding schools' enrollment procedures and the obligation to enroll all residents of school age regardless of their race, color, national origin, immigration, or citizenship status.
Letter and related materials available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese: http://go.usa.gov/wgTT
Departments of Education and Justice Release Letter on Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action Decision:
The Department of Education and the Department of Justice issued a Dear Colleague Letter concerning the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The letter provides information about the Schuette decision and reiterates the Departments’ support for the voluntary use of race and ethnicity to achieve diversity in education.
En Español: http://go.usa.gov/wg2F
UPDATE: Hawaii Department of Transportation Ruling:
The last issue of Title VI Civil Rights News @FCS highlighted a Statement of Interest that FCS filed in Faith Action for Community Equity v. Hawai’i Department of Transportation, No. 13-cv-00450 SOM, 2014 WL 1691622 (D. Haw. Apr. 28, 2014). The private plaintiffs’ complaint alleged that the Hawai’i Department of Transportation denied LEP individuals a meaningful opportunity to take the Hawai’i driver’s license examination. On April 28, 2014, the District Court of Hawaii denied the Hawai’i Department of Transportation’s Motion to Dismiss, allowing the plaintiffs’ claims of intentional discrimination to proceed. View the ruling here
Courts Language Access Resolutions Reached:
The Justice Department recently reached an agreement with the Rhode Island Judiciary to ensure that limited English proficient (LEP) individuals will have access to timely and competent language assistance at no charge in all court proceedings, services and programs throughout the state court system. The press release, which details the efforts to be undertaken in order to ensure comprehensive language assistance throughout the court system, is here, the full agreement can be accessed here, and the Rhode Island judiciary’s language access plan can be found here.
The Justice Department also recently reached an agreement with the New Jersey Judiciary to provide comprehensive language assistance services to LEP individuals resolving a Justice Department review that was opened in response to complaints by court users that courthouses in two counties in New Jersey were not fully accessible to LEP individuals. The full Justice Department press release outlining the actions and initiatives that the New Jersey Judiciary has implemented to respond to concerns raised during the federal review and the efforts they will undertake to ensure the ongoing provision of comprehensive language assistance throughout the court system is here, and the full agreement is here.
Environmental Justice Website Launched:
Also, under the leadership of the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section, the Title VI Committee of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice posted a new page dedicated to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the role enforcement can play in addressing environmental justice issues. Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, directs “each Federal agency [to]… make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.” All federal agencies, in accordance with Title VI, are obligated to ensure the programs and activities they fund that affect human health and the environment do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The new webpage includes resources to support Title VI enforcement and compliance activities and educate recipients and the public about the intersection of Title VI and Executive Order 12898.
Title VI Statements Of Interest Filed: We also wanted to share with you two Statements of Interest we have filed in cases alleging national origin discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We filed a statement of interest in Faith Action for Community Equity v. Hawai’i Department of Transportation, a case alleging that the Hawai’i Department of Transportation denied LEP individuals a meaningful opportunity to take the Hawai’i driver’s license examination. We urged the court to find that the allegation, if proven, constitutes intentional discrimination on the basis of national origin and therefore is a proper subject for a private lawsuit to enforce Title VI. The full Statement of Interest can be found here.
We also filed a statement of interest in Torres v. City of New York, a case alleging that the New York City Police Department refused to communicate in Spanish with LEP Spanish-speaking victims of domestic violence. We argued that the allegations, if true, constitute national origin discrimination under Title VI and therefore the police department’s motion to dismiss should be denied. The full Statement of Interest can be found here.
New Tools to Access: The Federal Coordination and Compliance Section has released a number of Translation and Interpretation Procurement Series (TIPS) tools
- Before You Hire - Ask Yourself: “What are my Project’s Language Needs?” - TIPS to making language service hiring decisions. (PDF)
- TIPS on Hiring the Right Telephonic Interpretation Vendor - TIPS to finding a high-quality telephone interpretation vendor. (PDF)
- TIPS for Working with Telephone Interpreters - TIPS for planning, placing, and troubleshooting phone-calls with telephone interpreters. (PDF)
- What Does it Mean to be a Certified Linguist? - TIPS to discovering vendor and linguist qualifications. (PDF)
In addition, we have released a new tool to help state and local courts assess and improve their language assistance services for LEP litigants, victims and witnesses who need access to court services. The tool can be found here.