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Brennan Center Comments on Department of Homeland Security Language Assistance Guidelines

The Brennan Center and 13 immigrant advocacy and legal aid programs filed public comments on DHS guidelines for federally funded entities that assist and administer limited English proficient (LEP) individuals in their contact with police and motor vehicle departments, detention centers and more.

Published: July 19, 2010

On July 16, 2010, the Brennan Center and 13 immigrant advocacy and legal aid programs filed comments urging the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to instruct police departments to make 911 lines accessible to limited English proficient (LEP) victims of crime, bar immigrant detention centers from using detainees to interpret for doctors, and require motor vehicle departments to safeguard personal information by avoiding the use of family and friends to interpret for drivers license applicants.

The comments respond to a set of guidelines DHS proposes to issue for the state and local governments, non-profits and businesses that receive DHS funding, instructing them how to provide language assistance required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. With its proposed guidelines, DHS is for the first time making a serious effort to ensure that its funding recipients do in fact provide this language assistance. Our comments urge DHS to make the guidelines more useful for individual funding recipients, by identifying the specific language access obligations of specific types of agencies.