December 6, 2022

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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Issues Memorandum to Improve Access to Services for People with Limited Proficiency in English

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<div>The Justice Department issued a memorandum today requesting that federal agencies review their language access practices and policies to strengthen the federal government’s engagement with individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP).</div>

Note: This press release has been translated into various languages.  See attachments below.

The Justice Department issued a memorandum today requesting that federal agencies review their language access practices and policies to strengthen the federal government’s engagement with individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP).

“All people in this country, regardless of the language they speak, deserve meaningful access to programs and activities that are conducted or supported by federal agencies,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department is committed to working with our federal partners to address linguistic barriers in governmental services that deny individuals a full opportunity to participate in economic, social, and civic life.”

This memorandum outlines a course of action for federal agencies to improve, modernize, and carry out their language access responsibilities under Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency.” As set forth in the memorandum, the Civil Rights Division, with assistance from the Office for Access to Justice, will spearhead a collaborative effort to determine: (1) whether agencies can further update their language access policies and plans; (2) whether agencies are effectively reaching LEP individuals when disseminating information about federal resources, programs, and services; (3) whether agencies have considered updates or modifications to guidance to federal financial assistance recipients regarding their obligations to provide meaningful language access under the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations; and (4) whether agencies can adapt their digital communications to welcome LEP individuals. 

This memorandum builds on existing efforts by the Department of Justice to engage with LEP individuals, including a new focus on expanding language access assistance in the Department’s 2022-2026 Strategic Plan. In May 2022, Attorney General Garland appointed Ana Paula Noguez Mercado as the Department’s Language Access Coordinator within the Office for Access to Justice to help ensure that the Department is leading by example. The Office for Access to Justice has since expanded its language access team and is leading the Department’s Language Access Working Group to provide technical assistance and training across components as they continue to improve language access for all. The Civil Rights Division continues to maintain www.LEP.gov, which provides resources and information to help expand and improve language assistance services for LEP individuals, in compliance with federal law.

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