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Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal

Abstract

Sharp growth in immigration has introduced California to a large number of persons who do not speak and understand English well enough to make use of basic social services. These individuals may not know what public services are available, may not be able to communicate with local officials, and may not receive information that local agencies release to the public. Local agencies throughout California should ensure that all their services are accessible to persons for whom English is a barrier to understanding.

This article first explains why the California and federal constitutions forbid laws requiring that services be provided in English only. It then describes federal measures that provide incentives to local agencies to increase language access and California laws that require agencies to provide services in a manner that reflects language diversity. The article moves on to summarize local language access implementation plans that various cities throughout the nation have enacted. Finally, the article closes by recommending steps local agencies can take to improve access to their services for persons with limited English proficiency.

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