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Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

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In addition to its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and nondiscrimination in the workforce, CBP is committed to preserving individual liberty, fairness and equality under the law in the conduct of its primary mission of securing the nation.  This includes upholding the civil rights and civil liberties of the members of the public with whom its employees come into contact in the course of their inspectional, enforcement, and trade activities, and prohibiting the use of racial profiling in the conduct of these activities.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) reviews and assesses complaints from the public in areas such as: physical or other abuse; discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability; inappropriate conditions of confinement; infringements of free speech; violation of right to due process, such as right to timely notice of charges or access to lawyer; violation of the confidentiality requirements of the  Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); and any other civil rights or civil liberties violation related to a Department program or activity.

CRCL also reviews the programs of its component agencies, including CBP, to assure that the component agencies meet their commitment to observe the civil rights and civil liberties of the public and to avoid racial profiling in conducting stops, searches, and other law enforcement, investigation, or inspectional activities.

 

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Most individuals living in the United States read, write, speak, and understand English. Many individuals, however, do not read, write, speak, or understand English as their primary language. People whose primary language is not English and have a limited ability to understand, speak, read, and write English are at a disadvantage in the United States. If they want to take advantage of government programs, for example, they may not understand or exercise their rights in the programs and activities funded by the federal government, or be able to access important benefits or services of the programs or comply with applicable responsibilities. Such individuals are referred to as being "limited English proficient" or LEP.

It is the goal of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to reduce the language barriers for LEP individuals seeking access to government services. Federal agencies are required to create plans to ensure that their activities are accessible to these people. At the same time, the government obligates organizations receiving federal assistance in the form of grants or training, for example, to take reasonable steps to ensure the same meaningful access to their programs.

For LEP individuals, language can be a barrier to accessing important benefits or services, understanding and exercising important rights, providing timely and critical information to first responders in times of emergency, 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 DHS Title VI regulations against national origin discrimination, 6 CFR part 21.

 

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On August 11, 2000, the President signed Executive Order 13166, "Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency." 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. 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" (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 against national origin discrimination.

The Federal Coordination and Compliance Section is responsible for government wide coordination with respect to Executive Order 13166. The Section serves as the federal repository for the internal implementation plans that each federal agency is required to develop, to ensure meaningful access to its own federally conducted programs and activities, and it also reviews and approves each funding agency’s external LEP guidance for its recipients.

As the Department of Justice prepared its own plan, the Section reviewed and approved each component’s submission. Further, the Section developed the Department’s external guidance for its own recipients. The Section has initiated an aggressive program of intra- and inter-agency consultations and actively solicits comments and suggestions from representatives of recipient and LEP individuals on how to identify and address the needs of LEP individuals under Executive Order 13166 in an efficient and cost-effective manner.