Federal Register: January 16, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 10)]
DATES: This guidance is effective immediately. Comments must be submitted on or before March 19, 2001. DOJ will review all comments and will determine what modifications to the policy guidance, if any, are necessary.
ADDRESSES: Interested persons should submit written comments to Ms. Merrily Friedlander, Chief, Coordination and Review Section, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice, P.O. Box 66560, Washington, DC 20035-6560; Comments may also be submitted by facsimile at 202-307-0595.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christine Stoneman or Sebastian Aloot at the Civil Rights Division, P.O. Box 66560, Washington, DC 20035-6560. Telephone 202-307-2222; TDD: 202-307-2678. Arrangements to receive the policy in an alternative format may be made by contacting the named individuals.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, et seq. and its implementing regulations provide that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin under any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance.
The purpose of this policy guidance is to clarify the responsibilities of recipients of federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ("recipients"), and assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities to limited English proficient (LEP) persons, pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and implementing regulations. The policy guidance reiterates DOJ's longstanding position that in order to avoid discrimination against LEP persons on the grounds of national origin, recipients must take reasonable steps to ensure that such persons have meaningful access to the programs, services, and information those recipients provide, free of charge.
The policy guidance includes appendices. Appendix A provides examples of how this guidance would apply to DOJ recipients. Appendix B provides further information on the legal bases for the guidance. It also explains further who is covered by this guidance. The text of the complete guidance document, including appendices, appears below.
Dated: January 5, 2001.
Daniel Marcus, Associate Attorney General, United States Department of Justice.
Guidance to Recipients of U.S. Department of Justice Federal Financial Assistance:
For most people living in the United States, English is their native language or they have learned to read, speak, and understand English. There are others for whom English is not their primary language. If they also have limited ability to read, speak, or understand English, then these people are limited English proficient, or "LEP." For them, language can be a barrier to accessing benefits or services, understanding and exercising important rights, or understanding other information provided by federally funded programs and activities.
This guidance ("Guidance") is based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and regulations that implement Title VI. Title VI was intended to eliminate barriers based on race, color, and national origin in federally assisted programs or activities. In certain circumstances, failing to ensure that LEP persons can effectively participate in or benefit from federally assisted programs and activities or imposing additional burdens on LEP persons is national origin discrimination. Therefore, recipients must take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access for LEP persons.
In August, 2000, the President signed Executive Order 13166. Under that order, every federal agency that provides financial assistance to non-federal entities must create guidance on how their recipients can provide meaningful access to LEP persons and therefore comply with the longstanding Title VI law and its regulations. DOJ is issuing this Guidance to comply with the Executive Order. The guidance document is new, but Title VI's meaningful access requirement is not.
This Guidance should help recipients of Department of Justice (DOJ) financial assistance understand how to comply with the law. Recipients have a great deal of flexibility in determining how to comply with the meaningful access requirement, and are not required to use all of the suggested methods and options listed. As always, recipients also have the freedom to and are encouraged to go beyond mere compliance and create model programs for LEP access.
Federal financial assistance includes grants, training, use of equipment, donations of surplus property, and other assistance. Recipients of DOJ assistance include, for example:
When federal funds are passed through from one recipient to a subrecipient, the subrecipient is also covered by Title VI.
The LEP persons that are eligible to be served or encountered by these recipients include, but are not limited to:
Title VI applies to the entire program or activity of a recipient of DOJ assistance. That means that Title VI covers all parts of a recipient's operations. This is true even if only one part of the agency uses the federal assistance.
DOJ plans to continue to provide assistance and guidance in this important area. For example, DOJ plans to work with representatives of law enforcement, corrections, courts, and LEP persons to identify model plans and examples of best practices and share those with recipients.
DOJ Programs and Activities
At the same time as federal agencies are creating recipient guidance, Executive Order 13166 requires that they create LEP plans for their own agencies that are consistent with the standards for recipients. Therefore, DOJ will apply the standards in this guidance to its own activities.1
There are two appendices to this guidance. Appendix A provides examples of how this guidance would apply to DOJ recipients.
Appendix B provides further information on the legal bases for the guidance. It also explains further who is covered by this guidance.
Both of these appendices should be considered part of this guidance.
State or Local "English-Only" Laws
State or local "English-only" laws do not change the fact that recipients cannot discriminate in violation of Title VI. Entities in states and localities with "English-only" laws do not have to accept federal funding. However, if they do, they still have to comply with Title VI, including its prohibition against national origin discrimination by recipients.
II. How Recipients Should Decide What Language Services They Should Provide
As mentioned in Executive Order 13166 and the DOJ Guidance issued in August, 2000, recipients should apply a four-factor test to decide what steps to take to provide meaningful access to their programs and activities for LEP persons. Once the recipient has chosen the services it will provide, the recipient should prepare a written policy on language assistance for LEP persons (an "LEP policy").
A. The Four-Factor Analysis
Recipients must take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their services, programs, and activities. What "reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access" means depends on a number of factors. DOJ recipients should apply the following four factors to the various kinds of contacts that they have with the public to decide what reasonable steps they should take to ensure meaningful access for LEP persons. The results of this balancing test allow a recipient to decide what documents to translate, when oral translation is necessary, and whether language services must be made immediately available.
After applying the four-factor analysis, a recipient may conclude that different language assistance measures are needed for its different types of programs or activities. For instance, some of a recipient's activities will be more important than others and/or have greater impact on or contact with LEP persons, and thus require more in the way of language assistance.
Applying the four factors, for example, a small police department with limited resources encountering very few LEP people has far fewer language assistance responsibilities than larger departments with more resources and large populations of LEP individuals.3
B. Selecting Language Assistance Services
After applying the four-factor analysis, recipients have two main ways to provide language services, where needed: Oral interpretation and written translation. In deciding how to provide these services, recipients should consider the following information.
Where oral interpretation is needed, recipients should develop procedures for providing competent interpreters in a timely manner. To do so, the recipient should consider some or all of the following options:
Competence of Interpreters. When providing oral assistance, recipients should ensure competency of the language service provider, no matter which of the above options they use. Competency requires more than self-identification as bilingual. Some bilingual staff and community volunteers, for instance, may be able to communicate effectively in a different language when communicating information directly in that language, but not be competent to interpret in and out of English.
Competency to interpret does not always mean formal certification as an interpreter. However, certification is helpful. When using interpreters, recipients should ensure that they:
Some recipients, such as courts, may have additional self-imposed requirements for interpreters.
Inappropriate Use of Family Members, Friends, Other Inmates, or Detainees. As a general rule, when language services are required, recipients should provide competent interpreter services free of cost to the LEP person. LEP persons should be advised that they may choose either to secure the assistance of an interpreter of their own choosing, at their own expense, or a competent interpreter provided by the recipient.4 If the LEP person decides to provide his or her own interpreter, the provision of this notice and the LEP person's election should be documented in any written record generated with respect to the LEP person. In emergency situations that are not reasonably foreseeable, use of interpreters not provided by the recipient may be necessary. Proper recipient planning and implementation can help avoid such situations.
An effective LEP policy ensures that vital written materials are translated into the language of each regularly encountered LEP group eligible to be served and/or likely to be affected by the recipient's program.
The term "vital documents" includes, for example:
Whether or not a document is "vital" also depends upon the importance of the program, information, encounter, or service involved. For instance, applications for bicycle safety courses would not generally be considered vital, whereas applications for drug and alcohol counseling in prison would generally be considered vital.
Many large documents have both vital and non-vital information in them. Written translation of only the vital information is usually sufficient.
It sometimes may be hard to tell the difference between vital and non-vital documents. This may be especially true for outreach materials like brochures or other information on rights and services.
In order to have meaningful access, LEP persons need to be aware of those rights and services. Of course, it would be impossible to translate every piece of outreach material into every language. However, sometimes lack of awareness that a particular program, right, or service exists may effectively deny LEP individuals meaningful access. Thus, recipients should regularly assess the needs of the populations frequently encountered or affected by the program or activity to determine whether certain critical outreach materials should be translated. Community organizations may be helpful in determining what outreach materials may be most helpful to translate.
Recent technological advances have made it easier for recipients to store and share translated documents. At the same time, DOJ recognizes that recipients in a number of areas, such as many large cities, regularly serve LEP persons from many different areas of the world who speak dozens and sometimes over 100 different languages. It would be too burdensome to demand that recipients in these circumstances translate all written materials into all of those languages. Nevertheless, well-substantiated claims of lack of resources to translate all vital documents into dozens of languages do not necessarily relieve the recipient of the obligation to translate those documents into at least several of the most frequently encountered languages, and to set benchmarks for continued translations over time. As a result, the extent of the recipient's obligation to provide written translations of documents will be determined on a case-by-case basis, looking at the totality of the circumstances.
One way for a recipient to know with greater certainty that it will be found in compliance with its obligation to provide written translations in languages other than English is for the DOJ recipient to meet the guidelines outlined in paragraphs (a) and (b) below.
Paragraphs (a) and (b) outline the circumstances that provide a "safe harbor" for recipients regarding the requirements for translation of written materials. A "safe harbor" means that if a recipient provides written translations under these circumstances, this will be considered strong evidence of compliance, in the area of written translations.
The failure to provide written translations under the circumstances outlined in paragraphs (a) and (b) will not necessarily mean non-compliance with Title VI. In such circumstances, DOJ reviews the totality of the circumstances to determine the recipient's obligation to provide written materials in languages other than English.
Safe Harbor. DOJ will consider a recipient to be in compliance with its Title VI obligation to provide written materials in non-English languages if:
These safe harbor provisions apply to the translation of written documents only. They do not affect the requirement to provide meaningful access to LEP individuals through competent oral interpreters where oral language services are needed. For example, correctional facilities should ensure that prison rules have been explained to LEP inmates, at orientation, for instance, prior to taking disciplinary action against them.
The term "persons eligible to be served or likely to be affected or encountered" as used in paragraph (a) relates to the issue of identifying the DOJ recipient's service area for purposes of meeting its Title VI obligation. Because of the wide variety of recipient programs and activities, there is no "one size fits all" definition of what constitutes "persons eligible to be served or likely to be affected or encountered." Generally, the term means those persons who are in the geographic area that has been approved by a federal grant agency as the service area and who are either eligible for the recipient's services or otherwise might be affected or encountered by the recipient.
Where no service area has been approved, DOJ will consider the relevant service area as that approved by state or local authorities or designated by the recipient itself, provided that these designations do not themselves discriminatorily exclude certain populations. Appendix A provides examples of determining the relevant service area. When considering the number or proportion of LEP individuals in a service area, recipients need to consider LEP parent(s) when their English-proficient or LEP minor children and dependents encounter the legal system.
Just as with oral interpreters, translators of written documents must be competent. It is a good idea to build in a "check" on the translation. For instance, an independent translator could check the first translation. Or, one translator could translate the document, and a second, independent translator could translate it back into English. This is called "back translation."
Translators should understand the expected reading level of the audience. Sometimes direct translation of materials results in a translation that is written at a much more difficult level than the English language version. Community organizations may be able to help consider whether a document is written at a good level for the audience.
Finally, recipients will find it more effective and less costly if they try to maintain consistency in the words and phrases used to translate terms of art, legal, or other technical concepts. Creating or using already-created glossaries of commonly-used terms may be useful for LEP persons and translators, and cost effective for the recipient. Providing translators with examples of previous translations of similar material by the recipient, other recipients, or federal agencies may be helpful.
C. Elements of Effective Written Policy on Language Assistance for LEP Persons ("LEP Policy")
After completing the four-factor analysis and deciding what language assistance services are needed, the recipient should include those in a written LEP policy. The key to providing meaningful access is accurate and effective communication between the DOJ recipient and the LEP individual.
Although DOJ recipients have a great deal of flexibility in designing their policies, effective programs usually have five elements, discussed below. Failure to take all of the steps outlined in this section does not necessarily mean that a recipient has violated the law. Just as with all Title VI complaints, DOJ assesses each complaint on a case-by-case basis. DOJ applies the four factors in deciding whether the steps taken by a recipient provide meaningful access.
As noted above, the first two parts of the four-factor analysis of need include an assessment of the number or proportion of LEP individuals eligible to be served or encountered and the frequency of encounters. In addition, when developing a plan, recipients should develop a process for employees to identify the language of LEP persons encountered so that language services can be provided.
One way to determine the language of communication is to use language identification cards (or "I speak cards"), which invite LEP persons to identify their language needs to staff. Such cards, for instance, might say "I speak Spanish" in both Spanish and English, "I speak Vietnamese" in both English and Vietnamese, etc. When records are normally kept of past interactions with members of the public, the language of the LEP person should be included as part of the record. In addition to helping employees identify the language of LEP persons they encounter, this process will help in future application of the first two factors of the four-factor analysis.
The LEP policy should include information about the ways in which language assistance will be provided. For instance, it should include information on at least the following:
Staff need to know that they must provide meaningful access to information and services for LEP persons. Recipients should provide training to ensure that:
It is important that this training be part of the orientation for new employees and that all employees in public contact positions (or having contact with those in a recipient's custody) be properly trained. Recipients have flexibility in deciding the way the training is provided. The more frequent the contact with LEP persons, the greater the need will be for in-depth training. Staff with little or no contact with LEP persons may only have to be aware of an LEP policy.
Once an agency has decided, based on the four factors, that it will provide language services, it is important to let LEP persons know that those services are available and that they are free of charge. Recipients should provide this notice in a language LEP persons will understand. Examples of notification that recipients should consider include:
(5) Monitoring and Updating the LEP Policy
Recipients should always consider whether new documents, programs, services, and activities need to be made accessible for LEP individuals, and they should make any needed changes. They should then provide notice of any changes in services to the LEP public and to employees. In addition, DOJ recipients should evaluate their entire language policy at least every three years. One way to evaluate the LEP policy is to seek feedback from the community.
In their reviews, recipients should assess changes in:
III. Application to Specific Types of Recipients
Appendix A of this Guidance provides examples of how the Title VI meaningful access requirement applies to law enforcement, corrections, courts, and other recipients of DOJ assistance.
A. State and Local Law Enforcement
Appendix A further explains how law enforcement recipients can apply the four factors to a range of encounters with the public. The responsibility for providing language services differs with different types of encounters.
Appendix A helps recipients identify the population they should consider when deciding the types of services to provide. It then provides guidance and examples of applying the four factors. For instance, it gives examples on how to apply this guidance to:
B. Departments of Corrections
Appendix A also helps departments of corrections understand how to apply the four factors. For instance, it gives examples of LEP access in:
C. Other Types of Recipients
Appendix A also applies the four factors and gives examples for other types of recipients. Those include, for example:
Title VI Compliance Procedures
DOJ recipients have a great deal of flexibility in deciding how to comply with these obligations. DOJ will continue to use the same process for handling complaints based on LEP as it uses in any other Title VI complaint. That process emphasizes voluntary compliance. (See Appendix B for further information). In addition, DOJ will use this Guidance, including the appendices, in conducting investigations or reviews of a recipient's language services.
Appendix A--Application of LEP Guidance for DOJ Recipients to Specific Types of Recipients
While a wide range of entities receive federal financial assistance through DOJ, most of DOJ's assistance goes to law enforcement agencies, including state and local police and sheriffs' departments, and to state departments of corrections. Sections A and B below provide examples of how these two major types of DOJ recipients might apply the four-factor analysis. Section C provides examples for other types of recipients. The examples in this Appendix are not meant to be exhaustive.
The requirements of Title VI and its implementing regulations, as clarified by this Guidance, supplement, but do not supplant, constitutional and other statutory or regulatory provisions that may require LEP services. For instance, while application of the four-factor analysis may lead to a similar result, it does not replace constitutional or other statutory protections mandating warnings and notices in languages other than English in the criminal justice context. Rather, this Guidance clarifies the Title VI obligation to address, in appropriate circumstances and in a reasonable manner, the language assistance needs of LEP individuals beyond those required by the Constitution or statutes and regulations other than Title VI.
A. State and Local Law Enforcement
For the vast majority of the public, exposure to law enforcement begins and ends with interactions with law enforcement personnel discharging their duties while on patrol, responding to a request for services, talking to witnesses, or conducting community outreach activities. For a much smaller number, that exposure includes a visit to a station house. And for an important but even smaller number, that visit to the station house results in entry into the criminal justice, judicial, or juvenile justice systems.
The common thread running through these and other interactions between the public and law enforcement is the exchange of information. LEP individuals' encounters with police and sheriffs' departments are covered by Title VI if those departments receive federal financial assistance. This Guidance focuses on the requirements under Title VI to communicate effectively with persons who are LEP to ensure that they have meaningful access to the system, including, for example, understanding rights and accessing police assistance.
Many police and sheriffs' departments already provide language services in a wide variety of circumstances to obtain information effectively, to build trust and relationships with the community, and to contribute to the safety of law enforcement personnel. For example, many police departments have available printed Miranda rights in languages other than English.1 In areas where significant LEP populations reside, law enforcement officials already may have forms and notices in languages other than English or they may employ bilingual law enforcement officers, intake personnel, counselors, and support staff. These experiences can form a strong basis for assessing need and implementing a plan in compliance with Title VI and its implementing regulations.
The touchstone of the four-factor analysis is reasonableness based upon the specific purposes, needs, and capabilities of the law enforcement service under review and an appreciation of the nature and particularized needs of the LEP population served. Accordingly, the analysis cannot provide a single uniform answer on how service to LEP persons must be provided in all programs or activities in all situations. Knowledge of local conditions and community needs becomes critical in determining the type and level of language services needed. The more predictable the need for language services, the greater the responsibility under the four-factor analysis.
Before giving specific examples, several general points should assist law enforcement planners in correctly applying the analysis to the wide range of services employed in their particular jurisdictions.
In many communities, resident populations change over time or season. For example, in some resort communities, populations swell during peak vacation periods, many times exceeding the number of permanent residents of the jurisdiction. In other communities, primarily agricultural areas, transient populations of agricultural workers will require increased law enforcement services during the relevant harvest season. This dynamic demographic ebb and flow can also dramatically change the size and nature of the LEP community likely to come into contact with law enforcement personnel. Thus, law enforcement officials should not limit their analysis to numbers and percentages of permanent residents. In assessing factor one--the number or proportion of LEP individuals--police departments should consider any significant but temporary changes in a jurisdiction's demographics.
For most law enforcement services, the target audience is defined in geographic rather than programmatic terms. However, some services may be targeted to reach a particular audience (e.g., elementary school children, elderly, residents of high crime areas, minority communities, small business owners/operators, etc.). Also, within the larger geographic area covered by a police department, certain precincts or portions of precincts may have concentrations of LEP persons. In these cases, even if the overall number or proportion of LEP individuals in the district is low, the frequency of contact may be foreseeably higher for certain areas or programs. Thus, the second factor--frequency of contact--should be considered in light of the specific program or the geographic area being served. The police department could then focus language services where they are most likely to be needed.
Given the critical role law enforcement plays in maintaining quality of life and property, traditional law enforcement and protective services rank high on the critical/non-critical continuum. However, this does not mean that information about, or provided by, each of the myriad services and activities performed by law enforcement officials must be equally available in languages other than English. While clearly important to the ultimate success of law enforcement, certain community outreach activities do not have the same direct impact on the provision of core law enforcement services as the activities of 911 lines or law enforcement officials' ability to respond to requests for assistance while on patrol, to communicate basic information to suspects, etc. Nevertheless, with the rising importance of community partnerships and community-based programming as a law enforcement technique, the need for language services should be considered in such activities as well.
Just as with other recipients, law enforcement recipients have a variety of options for providing language services. As a general rule, when language services are required, recipients should provide competent interpreter services free of cost to the LEP person. LEP persons should be advised that they may choose either to secure the assistance of an interpreter of their own choosing, at their own expense, or a competent interpreter provided by the recipient.
If the LEP person decides to provide his or her own interpreter, the provision of this notice and the LEP person's election should be documented in any written record generated with respect to the LEP person. While an LEP person may sometimes look to bilingual family members or friends or other persons with whom they are comfortable for language assistance, there are many situations where an LEP person might want to rely upon recipient-supplied interpretative services. For example, such individuals may not be available when and where they are needed, or may not have the ability to translate program-specific technical information. Alternatively, an individual may feel uncomfortable revealing or describing sensitive, confidential, or potentially embarrassing medical, law enforcement (e.g., sexual or violent assaults), family, or financial information to a family member, friend, or member of the local community. Similarly, there may be situations where a recipient's own interests justify the provision of an interpreter regardless of whether the LEP individual also provides his or her own interpreter. For example, where precise, complete and accurate translations of information and/or testimony are critical for law enforcement, adjudicatory or legal reasons, a recipient might decide to provide its own, independent interpreter, even if an LEP person wants to use their own interpreter as well.
In emergency situations that are not reasonably foreseeable, the recipient may have to temporarily rely on non-recipient-provided language services. Proper recipient planning and implementation can help avoid such situations.
While all language services need to be competent, the greater the potential consequences, the greater the need to monitor interpretation services for quality. For instance, it is important that interpreters in custodial interrogations be highly competent to translate legal and other law enforcement concepts, as well as be extremely accurate in their interpretation. It may be sufficient, however, for a desk clerk who is bilingual but not skilled at interpreting to help an LEP person figure out to whom he or she needs to talk about setting up a neighborhood watch.
While all police activities are important, the Title VI analysis requires some prioritizing so that language services are targeted where most needed because of the nature and importance of the particular law enforcement activity involved. In addition, because of the "reasonableness" standard, and frequency of contact and resources factors, the obligation to provide language services increases where the importance of the activity is greater, the law enforcement activity is more focused, and/or the provision of language services is more "within the control" of the police department.
Under this framework, then, critical areas for language assistance include: 911 calls, custodial interrogation, and health and safety issues for persons within the control of the police. These activities should be considered the most important under the four-factor analysis. Systems for receiving and investigating complaints from the public are important; further, complaint forms and investigations/hearings are directly within the control of the department. Thus, forms, hearings, and other complaint procedures should be made accessible to LEP individuals. Often very important, but less focused and controlled are: Routine patrol activities, receiving non-emergency information regarding potential crimes, and ticketing. In these situations, the LEP plan should provide for a great deal of flexibility while at the same time ensuring that, wherever reasonable, language resources are available to officers and the LEP persons they encounter and that, when not available, the consequences to the LEP individuals are minimized. Community outreach activities are hard to categorize, but generally they do not rise to the same level of importance as the other activities listed. However, with the importance of community partnerships and community-based programming as a law enforcement technique, the need for language services should be considered in these activities as well. Police departments have a great deal of flexibility in determining how to best address their outreach to LEP populations.
LEP persons must have meaningful access to police services when they are victims of or witnesses to alleged criminal activity. Effective reporting systems transform victims, witnesses, or bystanders into assistants in law enforcement and investigation processes. Given the critical role the public plays in reporting crimes or directing limited law enforcement resources to time-sensitive emergency or public safety situations, efforts to address the language assistance needs of LEP individuals could have a significant impact on improving responsiveness, effectiveness, and safety.
All emergency service lines, or "911" lines, operated by agencies that receive federal financial assistance must be accessible to persons who are LEP. This will mean different things to different jurisdictions. For instance, in large cities with significant LEP communities, the 911 line may have operators who are bilingual and capable of accurately interpreting in high stress situations. Smaller cities or areas with small LEP populations should still have to have a plan for serving callers who are LEP, but the LEP policy and implementation may involve a telephonic language line that is fast enough and reliable enough to attend to the emergency situation, or include some other accommodation short of hiring bilingual operators.
Field enforcement includes, for example, traffic stops, pedestrian stops, serving warrants and restraining orders, Terry stops, and crowd/traffic control. Because of the diffuse nature of these activities, the reasonableness standard allows for great flexibility in providing meaningful access, for example, in routine field investigations and traffic stops. Nevertheless, the ability of law enforcement personnel to discharge fully and effectively its enforcement and crime interdiction mission requires the ability to communicate instructions, commands, and notices. For example, a routine traffic stop can become a difficult situation if an officer is unable to communicate effectively the reason for the stop, the need for identifying or other information, and the meaning of any written citation. Requests for consent to search are meaningless if the request is not understood. Similarly, crowd control commands will be wholly ineffective where significant numbers of people in a crowd cannot understand the meaning of law enforcement commands.
Given the wide range of possible situations in which law enforcement in the field can take place, it is impossible to equip every officer with the tools necessary to respond to every possible LEP scenario. Rather, in applying the four factors to field enforcement, the goal should be to implement measures addressing the language needs of significant LEP populations in the most likely and common situations.
Field investigations include neighborhood canvassing, witness identification and interviewing, investigative or Terry stops, and similar activities designed to solicit and obtain information from the community. Encounters with LEP individuals will often be less predictable in field investigations. However, the jurisdiction should still assess the potential for contact with LEP individuals in the course of field investigations and investigative stops, identify the LEP language group(s) most likely to be encountered, and provide their officers with sufficient written or oral translation resources to ensure that lack of English proficiency does not impede otherwise proper investigations or unduly burden LEP individuals.
Custodial interrogations of unrepresented LEP individuals trigger constitutional rights that this Guidance is not designed to address. Given the importance of being able to communicate effectively under such circumstances, recipients' ability to anticipate and plan for a need for language services, and the control over LEP and other individuals asserted by recipients in custodial interrogation situations, law enforcement recipients must ensure competent and free language services for LEP individuals in such situations. A clear written policy, understood and easily accessible by all officers, will assist the law enforcement agency in complying with this obligation. In formulating a written policy for effectively communicating with LEP individuals, agencies should consider whether law enforcement personnel themselves ought to serve as interpreters during custodial interrogation, or whether a qualified independent interpreter would be more appropriate.2
State or local law enforcement agencies that arrest LEP persons should consider the inherent communication impediments to gathering information from the LEP arrestee through an intake or booking process. Aside from the basic information, such as the LEP arrestee's name and address, law enforcement agencies should evaluate their ability to communicate with the LEP arrestee about his or her medical condition. Because medical screening questions are commonly used to elicit information on the arrestee's medical needs, suicidal inclinations, presence of contagious diseases, potential illness, resulting symptoms upon withdrawal from certain medications, or the need to segregate the arrestee from other prisoners, it is essential that law enforcement agencies have the ability to communicate effectively with an LEP arrestee. In jurisdictions with few bilingual officers or in situations where the LEP person speaks a language not encountered very frequently, language lines may provide the most cost effective and efficient method of communication.
Community outreach activities increasingly are recognized as important to the ultimate success of more traditional duties. Thus, an application of the four-factor LEP analysis to community outreach activities can play an important role in ensuring that the purpose of these activities (to improve police/community relations and advance law enforcement objectives) is not thwarted due to the failure to address the language needs of LEP persons.
B. Departments of Corrections
All departments of corrections that receive federal financial assistance from DOJ must provide LEP prisoners3 with meaningful access to benefits and services within the program. In order to do so, corrections departments, like other recipients, must apply the four-factor analysis.
Departments of corrections also have a wide variety of options in providing translation services appropriate to the particular situation. Bilingual staff competent in translating, in person or by phone, pose one option. Additionally, particular prisons may have agreements with local colleges and universities, interpreter services, and/or community organizations to provide paid or volunteer competent translators under agreements of confidentiality and impartiality. Language lines may offer a prudent oral interpreting option for prisons with very few and/or infrequent prisoners in a particular language group. Reliance on fellow prisoners is generally not appropriate. Reliance on fellow prisoners should only be an option in unforeseeable emergency circumstances; when the LEP inmate signs a waiver that is in his/her language and in a form designed for him/her to understand; or where the topic of communication is not sensitive, confidential, important, or technical in nature and the prisoner is competent in the skill of interpreting.
In addition, a department of corrections that receives federal financial assistance would be ultimately responsible for ensuring that LEP inmates have meaningful access within a prison run by a private or other entity with which the department has entered into a contract. The department may provide the staff and materials necessary to provide required language services, or it may choose to require the entity with which it contracted to provide the services itself.
As with law enforcement activities, critical and predictable contact with LEP individuals poses the greatest obligation for language services. Corrections facilities have somewhat greater abilities to assess the language needs of those they encounter, although inmate populations may change rapidly in some areas. Contact affecting health and safety, length of stay, and discipline present the most critical situations under the four-factor analysis.
In order to create a plan for providing language services, each department of corrections that receives federal financial assistance should assess the number of LEP prisoners who are in the system, in which prisons they are located, and the languages he or she speaks. Each prisoner's LEP status, and the language he or she speaks, should be placed in his or her file. Although this Guidance and Title VI are not meant to address literacy levels, agencies should be aware of literacy problems so that LEP services are provided in a way that is meaningful and useful (e.g., translated written materials are of little use to a nonliterate inmate). After the initial assessment, new LEP prisoners should be identified at intake or orientation, and the data should be updated accordingly.
Intake/Orientation plays a critical role not merely in the system's identification of LEP prisoners, but in providing those prisoners with fundamental information about their obligations to comply with system regulations, participate in education and training, receive appropriate medical treatment, and enjoy recreation. Even if only one prisoner doesn't understand English, that prisoner should be given the opportunity to be informed of the rules, obligations, and opportunities in a manner designed effectively to communicate these matters. An appropriate analogy is the obligation to communicate effectively with deaf prisoners, which is most frequently accomplished through sign language interpreters or written materials. Not every prison will use the same method for providing language assistance. Prisons with large numbers of Spanish-speaking LEP prisoners, for example, will likely need to translate written rules, notices, and other important orientation material into Spanish, with oral instructions, whereas prisons with very few such inmates may choose to rely upon a language line or qualified community volunteers to assist.
When a prisoner who is LEP is the subject of disciplinary action, the prison must provide language assistance. That assistance must ensure that the LEP prisoner had adequate notice of the rule in question and is meaningfully able to understand and participate in the process afforded prisoners under those circumstances. As noted previously, fellow inmates cannot serve as interpreters in disciplinary hearings.
Prisons providing health services should refer to Department of Health and Humans Services' guidance4 regarding health care providers' Title VI obligations, as well as with this Guidance.
Health care services are obviously extremely important. LEP individuals must be provided with access to those services. How that access is provided depends upon the number or proportion of LEP individuals, the frequency of contact with those LEP individuals, and the resources available to the recipient. If, for instance, a prison serves a high proportion of LEP individuals who speak Spanish, then the prison health care provider should have available qualified bilingual medical staff or interpreters versed in medical terms. If the population of LEP individuals is low, then the prison may choose instead, for example, to rely on a local community volunteer program that provides qualified interpreters through a university. Due to the private nature of medical situations, only in unpredictable emergency situations or in non-emergency cases where the inmate has waived rights to an non-inmate interpreter would the use of other bilingual inmates be appropriate.
If a prisoner's LEP status makes him/her unable to participate in a particular program, such a failure to participate cannot be used to adversely impact the length of stay or significantly affect the conditions of imprisonment. Prisons have options in how to apply this standard. For instance, prisons could: (1) Make the program accessible to the LEP inmate; or (2) waive the requirement.
States often mandate English-as-a-Second language (ESL) classes for LEP inmates. Nothing in this Guidance prohibits or requires such mandates. ESL courses often serve as an important part of a proper LEP plan in prisons because, as prisoners gain proficiency in English, fewer language services are needed. However, the fact that ESL classes are provided does not obviate the need to provide meaningful access for prisoners who are not yet English proficient.
This guidance also applies to community corrections programs that receive, directly or indirectly, federal financial assistance. For them, the most frequent contact with LEP individuals will be with an offender, a victim, or the family members of either, but may also include witnesses and community members in the area in which a crime was committed.
As with other recipient activities, community corrections programs should apply the four factors and determine areas where language services are most needed. Important oral communications include, for example: interviews; explaining conditions of probations/release; developing case plans; setting up referrals for services; regular supervision contacts; outlining violations of probations/parole and recommendations; and making adjustments to the case plan. Competent oral language services for LEP persons are important for each of these types of communication. Recipients have great flexibility in determining how to provide those services.
Just as with all language services, it is important that language services be competent. Some knowledge of the legal system may be necessary in certain circumstances. For example, special attention should be given to the technical interpretation skills of interpreters used when obtaining information from an offender during pre-sentence and violation of probation/parole investigations or in other circumstances in which legal terms and the results of inaccuracies could impose an enormous burden on the LEP person.
In addition, just as with other recipients, corrections programs should identify vital written materials for probation and parole that should be translated when a significant number or proportion of LEP individuals that speak a particular language is encountered. Vital documents in this context could include, for instance: probation/parole department descriptions and grievance procedures, offender rights information, the pre-sentence/release investigation report, notices of alleged violations, sentencing/release orders, including conditions of parole, and victim impact statement questionnaires.
C. Other Types of Recipients
DOJ provides federal financial assistance to many other types of entities and programs, including, for example, courts, juvenile justice programs, shelters for victims of domestic violence, and domestic violence prevention programs. Title VI and this Guidance apply to those entities. Examples involving some of those recipients follow:
Application of the four-factor analysis requires recipient courts to ensure that LEP parties and witnesses receive competent language services. At a minimum, every effort should be taken to ensure translations for LEP individuals during all hearings, trials, and motions during which the LEP individual must and/or may be present. When a recipient court appoints an attorney to represent an LEP defendant, the court should ensure that either the attorney is proficient in the LEP person's language or that a competent interpreter is provided during consultations between the attorney and the LEP person.
Many states have created certification procedures for interpreters. This is one way of meeting the Title VI requirement that recipients ensure competency of interpreters. Courts will not, however, always be able to find a certified interpreter, particularly for less frequently encountered languages.
Many individuals, while able to communicate in English to some extent, are still LEP. Courts should consider carefully whether a person will be able to understand and communicate effectively in the stressful role of a witness or party and in situations where knowledge of language subtleties and/or technical terms and concepts are involved.
When courts experience low numbers or proportions of LEP individuals from a particular language group and infrequent contact with that language group, creation of a new certification test for interpreters may be overly burdensome. In such cases, other methods should be used to determine the competency of interpreters for the court's purposes.
Another key to successful use of interpreters in the courtroom is to ensure that everyone in the process understands the role of the interpreter.
Just as corrections recipients must take care to ensure that eligible LEP individuals have the opportunity to reduce the term of their sentence to the same extent that non-LEP individuals do, courts must ensure that LEP persons have access to programs that would give them the opportunity to avoid serving a sentence at all.
Courts have significant contact with the public outside of the courtroom. Providing meaningful access to the legal process for LEP individuals requires more than just providing interpreters in the courtroom. Recipient courts should assess the need for language services all along the process, particularly in areas with high numbers of unrepresented individuals, such as family and small claims courts.
Just as with police departments, courts and/or particular divisions within courts may have more contact with LEP individuals than an assessment of the general population would indicate. Recipients should consider that higher contact level when determining the number or proportion of LEP individuals in the contact population, and the frequency of such contact.
DOJ provides funds to many juvenile justice programs to whom this Guidance applies.
Several domestic violence prevention and treatment programs receive DOJ financial assistance and thus must apply this Guidance to their programs and activities.
D. Framework for Creating a Model Plan
The following is an example of a framework for a model LEP policy that is potentially useful for all recipients, but is particularly appropriate for recipients serving and encountering significant and diverse LEP populations. The framework for a model plan incorporates a variety of options and methods for providing meaningful access to LEP persons. Recipients should consider some or all of these options for their plans:
As noted, these suggestions for a model plan are particularly appropriate for larger recipients encountering significant LEP populations. However, several of these steps will help smaller recipients prepare for and provide meaningful access when LEP individuals are encountered.
For smaller recipients with few LEP encounters, identifying the most important activities is critical, and determining how to provide language services in those critical areas should be a priority. This may be as simple as accessing a commercially available language line. Plans for such recipients should include monitoring and expanding services as needed.
Appendix B--Coverage and Legal Background
A. Who is Covered?
Title VI applies to every entity that manages or administers a program or activity receiving direct or indirect federal financial assistance from DOJ. The term "recipients," as used in this guidance, includes all covered entities. "Covered entities" include any state or local agency, private institution or organization, or any public or private individual that receives federal financial assistance from DOJ directly or through another DOJ recipient. Examples of covered entities include but are not limited to: Police departments; sheriffs' departments; state departments of corrections; courts; shelters for victims of domestic violence; community corrections programs; juvenile justice programs; and nonprofit organizations with law enforcement missions. DOJ operates over eighty different grant programs that provide funding to these and other different types of non-federal entities. Many of those grants are disbursed to subrecipients, which are also covered entities.
Grants are not the only type of "federal financial assistance" to which Title VI applies. Federal financial assistance includes, but is not limited to: Grants and loans of federal funds; grants or donations of federal surplus or real property; details of federal personnel; use of federal facilities; or any agreement, arrangement, or other contract which has as one of its purposes the provision of assistance. See 28 CFR 42.102(c). Training, equitable sharing of federally forfeited property, and use of FBI computers can also be considered federal financial assistance.1
In 1988, Congress clarified what constitutes a "program or activity" covered by Title VI when it enacted the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (CRRA). The CRRA provides that, in most cases, when a recipient receives federal financial assistance for a particular program or activity, all operations of the recipient are covered by Title VI, not just the part of the program that uses the federal assistance. Thus, Title VI covers all parts of the recipient's operations, even if only one part of the agency uses the federal assistance. For example, when DOJ provides federal financial assistance to a state department of corrections to improve a particular prison facility, all of the operations of the entire department of corrections--not just the particular prison--are covered by Title VI.2
The Department of Justice also has jurisdiction over enforcement of the antidiscrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 3789d(c) (Safe Streets Act). The standards for compliance with Title VI's prohibition against national origin discrimination also apply to the prohibition against national origin discrimination by recipients of Safe Streets Act funds.
B. Legal Background and Authority
The Title VI requirement to provide meaningful access to LEP persons is not new. The Department's position with regard to written language assistance is articulated in 28 CFR 42.405(d)(1), which is contained in the DOJ Coordination Regulations, 28 CFR Part 42, subpart F, issued in 1976. These regulations "govern the respective obligations of Federal agencies regarding enforcement of Title VI." 28 CFR 42.405. Section 42.405(d)(1) addresses the prohibitions cited by the Supreme Court in Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974). Thus, this Guidance draws its authority from Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, et seq.; 28 CFR Part 42, subpart C, (DOJ Title VI Regulations) and the Title VI regulations of other federal agencies; 28 CFR Part 42, subpart F. Further, this Guidance is issued pursuant to Executive Order 12250, reprinted at 42 U.S.C. 2000d, note; Executive Order 13166, 65 FR 50121 (August 16, 2000); and is consistent with the DOJ "Policy Guidance Document: on Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964--National Origin Discrimination Against Persons With Limited English Proficiency (LEP Guidance)," reprinted at 65 FR 50123 (August 16, 2000).
For additional background on Title VI and its methods of enforcement, see the DOJ Title VI Legal Manual (September, 1998); DOJ's Investigation Procedures Manual for the Investigation and Resolution of Complaints Alleging Violations of Title VI and Other Nondiscrimination Statutes (September 1998); DOJ Guidelines for the Enforcement of Title VI, 28 CFR 50.3; the Attorney General's "Memorandum for Heads of Departments and Agencies that Provide Federal Financial Assistance Regarding the Use of the Disparate Impact Standard in Administrative Regulations Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964" (July 14, 1994); and the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights' "Policy Guidance Document: Enforcement of Title VI and Related Statutes in Block Grant-Type Programs" (January 28, 1999).3
1. Existing State and Local Laws
State and local laws may provide additional obligations to serve LEP individuals, but such laws cannot compel recipients of federal financial assistance to violate Title VI. For instance, given our constitutional structure, state or local "English-only" laws do not relieve an entity that receives federal funding from its responsibilities under federal anti-discrimination laws. Entities in states and localities with "English-only" laws are certainly not required to accept federal funding--but if they do, they have to comply with Title VI, including its prohibition against national origin discrimination by recipients of federal assistance. Failing to make federally assisted programs and activities accessible to individuals who are LEP will, in certain circumstances, violate Title VI.
2. Basic Requirements Under Title VI
Title VI prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance from discriminating against or otherwise excluding individuals on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any of their activities. Section 601 of Title VI, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, provides:
The term "program or activity" is broadly defined. 42 U.S.C. 2000d-4a.
On its face, Title VI prohibits only intentional discrimination.4 However, virtually every federal agency, including DOJ, that grants federal financial assistance has promulgated regulations implementing Title VI. Those regulations prohibit recipients from "restrict[ing] an individual in any way in the enjoyment of any advantage or privilege enjoyed by others receiving any service, financial aid, or other benefit under the program" and "utiliz[ing] criteria or methods of administration which have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination" or have "the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the program as respects individuals of a particular race, color, or national origin." 28 CFR 42.04(b)(2). The Supreme Court has consistently upheld agency regulations prohibiting unjustified discriminatory effects.5
In Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974), the Supreme Court interpreted similar U.S. Department of Education regulations to require recipients of federal financial assistance to ensure, in appropriate circumstances, that language barriers did not exclude LEP persons from effective participation in federally assisted programs or activities. In Lau, a recipient provided the same services--an education provided solely in English--for a group of students who did not speak English as it did for students who did speak English. In finding for the Chinese-American students, the Court held that, under these circumstances, the school's practice violated the Title VI regulations' prohibition against discrimination on the basis of national origin. The Court observed that "[i]t seems obvious that the Chinese-speaking minority receive fewer benefits than the English-speaking majority from respondents' school system which denies them a meaningful opportunity to participate in the educational program--all earmarks of the discrimination banned by" the Title VI implementing regulations.6
While Lau arose in the educational context, its core holding--that the failure to address limited English proficiency among beneficiary classes could constitute national origin discrimination in violation of Title VI--has equal vitality with respect to any federally assisted program or activity providing services to the public.7
The failure to provide language assistance has significant discriminatory effects on the basis of national origin. The Department of Justice has consistently adhered to the view that these effects place the treatment of LEP individuals comfortably within the ambit of Title VI and agencies' implementing regulations.8 Also, existing language barriers may reflect underlying intentional or invidious discrimination of the type prohibited directly by Title VI itself.
Title VI does not require recipients to remove language barriers when English is an essential aspect of the program (such as providing civil service examinations in English when the job requires person to communicate in English, see Frontera v. Sindell, 522 F.2d 1215 (6th Cir. 1975)), or there is another non-pretextual "substantial legitimate justification for the challenged practice" and there is no comparably effective alternative practice with less discriminatory affects. Elston v. Talladega County Bd. of Educ., 997 F.2d 1394, 1407 (11th Cir. 1993); New York City Environmental Alliance v. Giuliani, 214 F.3d 65, 72 (2nd Cir. 2000) (plaintiffs failed to show less discriminatory options available to accomplish defendant city's legitimate goal of building new housing and fostering urban renewal). Similar balancing tests are used in other nondiscrimination provisions that are concerned with effects of an entity's actions. For example, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers need not cease practices that have a discriminatory effect if they are job-related and "consistent with business necessity" and there is no equally effective "alternative employment practice" that is less discriminatory. 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(k). Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794, recipients do not need to provide access to persons with disabilities if such steps impose an undue burden on the recipient. Alexander v. Choate, 469 U.S. at 300. Thus, in situations where all of the factors identified in the text are at their nadir, it may be "reasonable" not to take affirmative steps to provide further access.
Executive Order 13166 reaffirms and clarifies the obligation to eliminate limited English proficiency as a barrier to full and meaningful participation in federally assisted programs and activities. 65 FR 50121 (August 16, 2000). That order states, in part:
The Executive Order requires each federal agency to develop agency-specific LEP guidance for recipients of federal financial assistance. As an aid in developing this Guidance, the Executive Order incorporates the Department of Justice's Policy Guidance Document: "Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964--National Origin Discrimination Against Persons With Limited English Proficiency (`LEP Guidance')" issued contemporaneously with the Executive Order.10 That general LEP Guidance "sets forth the compliance standards that recipients must follow to ensure that programs and activities they normally provide in English are accessible to LEP persons."11 This LEP Guidance for DOJ Recipients represents the application of DOJ's general LEP Guidance to recipients of DOJ's federal financial assistance.
While the Department of Justice's Coordination Regulation, 28 CFR 42.405(d)(1),12 expressly addresses requirements for provision of written language assistance, a recipient's obligation to provide meaningful opportunity is not limited to written translations.
Oral communication between recipients and beneficiaries, clients, customers, wards, or other members of the public often is a necessary part of the exchange of information. In some cases, "meaningful opportunity" to benefit from the program requires the recipient to take steps to assure that translation services are promptly available. In other circumstances, instead of translating all of its written materials, a recipient may meet its obligation by making available oral assistance, or by commissioning written translations on reasonable request.
Thus, a recipient that limits its language assistance to the provision of written materials may not be allowing LEP persons "effectively to be informed of or to participate in the program." This Guidance provides information to recipients on how to comply with the meaningful access requirement.
D. Explanation of Title VI Compliance Procedures
This Guidance, including appendices, is not intended to be exhaustive. DOJ recipients have considerable flexibility in determining how to comply with their legal obligations in the LEP setting, and are not required to use all of the suggested methods and options listed. However, DOJ recipients must establish and implement policies and procedures for providing language assistance sufficient to fulfill their Title VI responsibilities and provide LEP persons with meaningful access to services. DOJ encourages recipients to document efforts to comply with the provisions of this Guidance. DOJ will make assessments on a case-by-case basis and will consider the four factors in assessing whether the steps taken by a DOJ recipient provide meaningful access.
DOJ enforces Title VI through the procedures identified in the Title VI regulations. These procedures include complaint investigations, compliance reviews, efforts to secure voluntary compliance, and technical assistance. In addition, aggrieved individuals may seek judicial relief.
The Title VI regulations provide that DOJ will investigate whenever it receives a complaint, report, or other information that alleges or indicates possible noncompliance with Title VI. If the investigation results in a finding of compliance, DOJ will inform the recipient in writing of this determination, including the basis for the determination. DOJ uses voluntary mediation to resolve most complaints. However, if a case is fully investigated and results in a finding of noncompliance, DOJ must inform the recipient of the noncompliance through a Letter of Findings that sets out the areas of noncompliance and the steps that must be taken to correct the noncompliance. It must attempt to secure voluntary compliance through informal means. If the matter cannot be resolved informally, DOJ must secure compliance through the termination of federal assistance after the DOJ recipient has been given an opportunity for an administrative hearing, and/or by referring the matter to a DOJ litigation section to seek injunctive relief or pursue other enforcement proceedings.
DOJ engages in voluntary compliance efforts and provides technical assistance to recipients at all stages of an investigation. During these efforts, DOJ proposes reasonable timetables for achieving compliance and consults with and assist recipients in exploring cost-effective ways of coming into compliance by sharing information on potential community resources, by increasing awareness of emerging technologies, and by sharing information on how other recipient/covered entities have addressed the language needs of diverse populations.
In determining a recipient's compliance with Title VI, DOJ's primary concern is to ensure that the recipient's policies and procedures overcome barriers resulting from language differences that would deny LEP persons a meaningful opportunity to participate in and access programs, services, and benefits.
[FR Doc. 01-869 Filed 1-12-01; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4410-13-P
This page was last updated on January 16, 2001