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Clinton Helps Lower Language Barrier

August 27, 2000

* Re "Democrats May Have Lost Latinos," Commentary, Aug. 20: The federal government is required under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to ensure that programs and activities funded by the federal government do not discriminate against persons on the basis of race, color or national origin. Language barriers prevent the government from effectively serving a large number of people for whom English is a second language.

While Frank Del Olmo and others are busy weighing the impact of the Democratic convention on Latino voters, President Clinton was signing an executive order which will make the workings of all branches of the federal government more accessible to persons of limited English proficiency. I tried unsuccessfully 20 years ago as director of the Office for Civil Rights at DHHS to get such regulations or guidelines adopted.

Now key materials will be available for the first time in Spanish, Chinese and other languages spoken by millions of Americans. Vital information on education and health, such as children's immunizations, will be translated into several languages by federal agencies. Bill Lann Lee, assistant attorney general for civil rights, simultaneously issued guidelines on enforcement of Title VI by state and local agencies receiving federal financial assistance for programs and activities. Both documents are cause for real celebration in limited-English-proficiency communities, especially here in California. It is no accident that this happened during a Democratic administration even if the Democrats did manage to offend legions of Loretta Sanchez supporters.

SYLVIA DREW IVIE

Los Angeles

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