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The Justice Department announced today the launch of the Federal Language Access Working Group, a new interagency effort that will coordinate language access across the federal government. Along with the creation of this working group, the Department also announced the release of updated federal agency language access plans on its website, www.LEP.gov, on the one-year anniversary of the Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s language access memorandum to federal agencies.
In November 2022, Attorney General Garland directed federal agencies to revise their language access plans, share best practices, and exchange information about language access initiatives and efforts in compliance with Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency.” Today marks the release of the first batch of those updated plans with additional federal agencies posting updated plans in the coming months.
“Our government serves all Americans better when we ensure that language barriers do not stand in the way of participation in civic life,” said Attorney General Garland. “Today, I’m pleased to share that more than a dozen federal agencies have answered my call to re-examine the ways in which they are addressing these barriers through the release of updated language access plans and policies aimed at ensuring that government programs remain accessible to all. The Justice Department will continue to support agencies in implementing their language access plans and their broader efforts to close the language gap across federal programs and services.”
“Everyone in the country should be able to exercise their rights, obtain critical information and access benefits and services that they are eligible for, regardless of the language they speak, read or write,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The updated language access plans released today lay out the steps that federal employees are taking to ensure that people with limited English proficiency are provided real and meaningful access to federal programs and activities. These plans also equip federal employees with the information they need to communicate accurately and effectively with all communities.”
The Federal Language Access Working Group will serve as a central resource for providing support and technical assistance to federal agencies as they work to implement their updated language access plans. The working group will also directly engage with community groups, individuals with limited English proficiency, and other stakeholders to ensure adherence with Executive Order 13166 and other federal language access obligations. The working group will also focus on ensuring that recipients of federal funds comply with their language access obligations under federal law. The Attorney General’s memorandum called upon agencies to consider additional ways in which agencies can ensure that federal financial assistance recipients understand and comply with their obligations to provide meaningful language access under the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations.
Today’s announcement builds on the Justice Department’s longstanding commitment to advancing language access. The Civil Rights Division recently issued a fact sheet on courts language access in coordination with a webinar for state courts. The division also launched the Law Enforcement Language Access Initiative, a nationwide effort to assist law enforcement agencies in meeting their obligations to provide meaningful language access.
Pursuant to the Attorney General’s November 2022 memorandum, the Justice Department issued its revised Language Access Plan in August, which can be found here. Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Arabic, and French translations are also available. The Office for Access to Justice’s Language Access Program coordinates implementation of the Department’s revised plan, provides training and technical assistance to Department components, expands language access resources, and promotes improved language access policies and practices in compliance with the Department’s plan. The program’s Language Access Coordinator chairs the Department’s Language Access Working Group, a Department-wide effort to implement the Department’s plan.
Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt and information about limited English proficiency and Executive Order 13166 is available at www.LEP.gov.