Monday, February 24, 2014

Make it official?

There are about 322 languages spoken in the United States. English is not the official language of the country.  Should it be?

According to the U.S. Census, in 2007, 16.3% spoke English "not well" and 8.1% or "not at all."
So almost one in four Americans spoke English less than "well."

States have declared English as their official language, in order to receive federal financial assistance those states still have to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Documents Required in 322 Languages?
What does current federal Law require? 
According to John W. Carlin, Archivist of the United States,
"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. Language for LEP [Limited English Proficient] individuals can be a barrier to accessing important benefits or services, understanding and exercising important rights, complying with applicable responsibilities, or understanding other information provided by federally funded programs and activities.

"In certain circumstances, failure to ensure that LEP persons can effectively participate in or benefit from federally assisted programs and activities may violate the prohibition under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d and Title VI regulations against national origin discrimination."
President John F. Kennedy, who advocated civil rights legislation before his death, said: 'Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.'" (source)
MLK &LBJ,after LBJ signs Civil Rights Act of 1964
Occasions when interpreters may be required:
Trials:  Federal civil and criminal trials that involve parties or witnesses who are not proficient in English – 28 U.S.C. 1827.

Voting Rights: Bilingual ballots and voter information must be provided in jurisdictions where speakers of Spanish, Native American, and Asian American languages exceed 5 percent of the population or number more than 10,000 and have below average rates of voter turnout and English proficiency – 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a.

Education: Federal civil rights law requires schools to take "appropriate action to overcome language barriers" that bar full access to the curriculum for children who are limited in English (20 U.S.C. 1703f). This was also the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Lau v. Nichols. Yet there is no federal mandate for bilingual education.

Employment Discrimination: President William J. Clinton signed Executive Order 13166 into law on August 11, 2000. "The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to those with limited English proficiency (LEP), and develop and implement a system to provide those services so LEP persons can have meaningful access to them. It is expected that agency plans will provide for such meaningful access consistent with, and without unduly burdening, the fundamental mission of the agency. The Executive Order also requires that the Federal agencies work to ensure that recipients of Federal financial assistance provide meaningful access to their LEP applicants and beneficiaries (source)."

To assist Federal agencies in carrying out these responsibilities, the U.S. Department of Justice has issued a Policy Guidance Document, "Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - National Origin Discrimination Against Persons With Limited English Proficiency" (2002 LEP Guidance). This LEP Guidance sets forth the compliance standards that recipients of Federal financial assistance must follow to ensure that their programs and activities normally provided in English are accessible to LEP persons and thus do not discriminate on the basis of national origin in violation of Title VI's prohibition.

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