If you do not speak or understand English, or if you prefer to work with Legal Aid in your first language, interpreters or bilingual staff members are available.

Legal Aid also protects your right to language access with other Northeast Ohio agencies.

FAQs

What does Limited English Proficiency (LEP) mean? Close

Someone with Limited English Proficiency does not speak, read, write, or understand English well.

Additional Resources

Limited English Proficiency Federal

What are your rights if you have Limited English Proficiency? Close

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people with Limited English Proficiency. Title VI requires U.S. government agencies and state or local organizations that get money from the U.S. government to take reasonable steps (example: using an interpreter or a bilingual staff member) when helping people with Limited English Proficiency.

What organizations in Northeast Ohio must provide you with an interpreter? Close

  • ALL public and charter schools (NOT Catholic or other private schools)
  • Public and subsidized housing agencies
  • Social Security Administration
  • Unemployment Compensation Agencies
  • Welfare Office (County Department of Employment & Family Services)
  • Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA)
  • Courts

I do not speak and understand English and one of these agencies does not provide me with an interpreter or with a staff member who speaks my language. What do I do? Close

  1. Ask for an interpreter or to speak to a bilingual staff member
  2. Talk to a supervisor, customer services person, or ombudsman (person who hears complaints)
  3. File a complaint; most agencies have their own complaint form you can ask for over the phone, in-person, online, or by mail. Be sure to:
  • Submit the complaint in writing (in English or your first language)
  • Sign and date the complaint
  • Keep a copy for your records

Next Steps

Contact Legal Aid. In some cases, Legal Aid may be able to help you when an agency has refused to use an interpreter to talk with you.

If I need an interpreter, how do I request one? Close

Who Must Provide You With An Interpreter?

• Courts
• Most hospitals
• Legal Aid and Public Defender
• Public and Charter Schools (but not Catholic or other private schools)
• Public Housing Agencies
• All Federal agencies like Social Security, Veterans Administration, Internal Revenue Service
• State agencies like Unemployment Compensation and the BMV
• County agencies that handle public assistance and Medicaid benefits

Asking For An Interpreter

Ask an employee of the court, agency or organization for an interpreter.

If a court does not provide you with an interpreter, click here for information on your rights and how to file a complaint.

If another organization or agency does not provide you with an interpreter, try asking to speak with a supervisor, customer service person or ombudsman (person who hears complaints).

If they say no, ask a supervisor, customer service person, or ombudsman (person who hears complaints) for an interpreter.

If they still do not provide an interpreter, you may file a complaint against them with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). You may either send a letter or use DOJ’s complaint form, in English or your first language. You should explain when and how they did not speak to you in your language or provide you an interpreter. Keep a copy of the complaint for your records.   Send the letter or form to:

Office for Civil Rights
Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice
810 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ocr

202-307-0690

DOJ will respond with a letter or phone call.

Language Access for Parents Close

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District has agreed to provide interpretation and translation services to students and parents with material related to schooling. This flyer explains what  services the Cleveland School district has agreed to provide.

This flyer is available in both English and Spanish at: Language Access for Parents/Acceso linguistico para los padres.

Do I have the right to an interpreter? Close

Do you or someone you know speak a language other than English (including American Sign Language)?   Do you or they have trouble understanding and speaking English?   If you answered yes to these questions, you have a right to an interpreter if you have to go to court.   Persons with limited English skills should tell court staff right away that they need an interpreter.   Once the court knows an interpreter is needed, then the court must provide one.

On January 1, 2013, the Ohio Supreme Court began following Rule 88.   With this rule, the court must provide certified interpreters who know how to interpret in civil and criminal court for non-English speakers.   Not all bilingual persons are qualified to interpret in court; special skills are needed.

Other agencies that get federal funding must provide interpreters according to the law.   Some of them are:

  • Hospitals;
  • Legal aid, public defender, prosecutor and law enforcement;
  • Public and charter schools;
  • Public housing authorities;
  • Federal agencies such as SSA, VA, and IRS;
  • State agencies such as Department of Job and Family Services, Child Support Enforcement Agency, and Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

If you ask for an interpreter in court or at these agencies and you do not get one, you should ask to speak with a supervisor or ask where you can file a complaint.   If an interpreter is still not provided,   you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) by sending a letter or using the DOJ’s complaint form.   In the letter or on the complaint form explain when and how they did not speak to you in your language or provide you an interpreter.   Make a copy of the complaint or letter for your records.   Send the complaint or letter to:

Federal Coordination and Compliance Section – NWB
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C.   20530

You may also contact the US Department of Justice at:

(888) 848-5306 РEnglish and Spanish (ingles y espa̱ol)
(202) 307-2222 (voice)
(202) 307-2678 (TDD)

This article was written by Legal Aid volunteer attorney John Kirn and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 1. Click here to read the full issue.

I have an administrative hearing scheduled but do not speak English. What are my rights? Close

Federal law states that you have the right to an interpreter in an administrative hearing if you are a person with limited English proficiency (LEP). This means that you do not speak, read, write, or understand English fluently. Additionally, LEP individuals who are not involved in the administrative hearing, but who need to be there, like a parent or guardian, also have the right to an interpreter. Your family members or children should not be used instead of a qualified interpreter from the agency/organization. LEP individuals have the right to participate in administrative hearings in the same way as someone who speaks and understands English fluently.

Examples of agencies that must provide you with an interpreter: courts; U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services; Social Security; Veterans Administration; IRS; Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services (Unemployment Compensation & welfare office); Medicaid office; Bureau of Motor Vehicles; public housing agencies; and public and charter/community schools.

Asking for an interpreter:

  • Ask an employee of the court, agency, or organization for an interpreter.
  • If the person you ask says no: ask for a supervisor, customer service representative, or ombudsman (person who hears complaints).

What to do if you do not receive an interpreter:

  • If you still do not receive an interpreter, you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
  • You can file a complaint by either sending a letter or using DOJ’s complaint form.  The form is on DOJ’s website.  You can do this in either English or your first language.
  • The complaint should explain when and how the agency did not give you an interpreter or how they did not speak to you in a language you can understand.
  • Please keep a copy of the complaint for your records.
  • The letter or form should be sent to:                             Interpreter Address Info Block

 

 

 

 

  • DOJ Website: http://www.justice.gov/crt/complaint/
  • DOJ Phone: 1 – (888) 848-5306
  • DOJ will respond to you with a letter or phone call.

 

This article was written by Legal Aid Senior Attorney Megan Sprecher & Volunteer Attorney Jessica Baaklini appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

My child is learning English – what are his/her rights under federal law? Close

English learner students have a right to equal access to high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve full academic potential.  New guidance issued in January by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice remind states, districts, and schools of their obligations under federal law.  Fact Sheets published in English and other languages help inform the community about these rights and responsibilities.  Follow the links below for more information and please share widely.

US Department of Education press release: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-departments-education-and-justice-release-joint-guidance-ensure-english-learner-students-have-equal-access-high-quality-education

“Dear Colleague Letter” providing joint guidance to states, districts and schools in meeting their obligation to ensure English learner students can participate meaningfully and equally in educational programs and services.

    • A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students can participate meaningfully and equally in school.
    • A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to communicate information to limited English proficient parents in a language they can understand.
    • A toolkit to help school districts identify English learner students, prepared by the Education Department’s Office of English Language Acquisition. This is the first chapter in a series of chapters to help state education agencies and school districts meet their obligations to English learner students.

I am not fluent in English – do I have right to interpreter? Close

People who are not fluent in English have a right to an interpreter in many places, and options to enforce those rights.

Some common places that are required by law to provide interpreters are hospitals, public and charter schools, courts, public housing agencies, Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Veterans Administration, Unemployment Compensation, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and the county Department of Job and Family Services.

A person not fluent in English should ask for an interpreter when going to these agencies. If they do not provide an interpreter, ask for a supervisor or for a customer service representative. If they still do not provide an interpreter, a person has the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.  For more information, go to: https://www.justice.gov/crt/filing-complaint or call: (888) 848-5306 – English and Spanish (ingles y español); (202) 307-2222 (voice); (202) 307-2678 (TDD).

The police are also required to provide interpreters for people who are not fluent in English.  In the City of Cleveland, if a law enforcement officer does not provide an interpreter while communicating with a constituent who is not fluent in English, that person can file a report with the Cleveland Police’s Office of Professional Standards and Civilian Police Review Board (OPS/CPRB).  For more information go to: http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us/CityofCleveland/Home/Government/CityAgencies/PublicSafety/OPS_PoliceReview or call: 216.664.2944.  In addition to filing a complaint with OPS, a person also has the option to file a complaint with the DOJ for the denial of an interpreter by the police (see above DOJ contact info.).  If the police force that denied service is one other than the City of Cleveland, the person can file their complaint with DOJ or check and see if there is a local option like in Cleveland.

Update as of 2/9/2017: Federal Appeals Court, Executive Order on Immigration Close

This is an update post to news shared on January 30, 2017 and February 4, 2017:

A federal court of appeals decided on February 9, 2017 that President Trump’s executive orders restricting travel and immigration will remain suspended. Therefore, the rules described here are not currently in effect. This means that anyone from the seven affected countries who has been granted permission to enter the United States may do so.

The administration could now decide between a variety of next-steps: one of which includes a possible appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Since there is still uncertainty about the final outcome of these orders, if you are a citizen of or a lawful permanent resident (LPR) from any of the affected countries, contact an attorney to discuss your ability to re-enter before considering any travel outside of the United States.

Legal Aid may be able to assist low income U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, refugees, asylees, and non-citizen victims of crime, including domestic violence and human trafficking.

Continue to check Legal Aid’s website for future updates.  If you have questions about a particular issue, click here to learn more about how to contact Legal Aid.

What are my Rights during Contact with Police or Immigration Agent? Close

Everyone in the United States, regardless of immigration status, has certain rights when interacting with the police and immigration agents.  The rights include the right to remain silent, the right NOT to answer questions about immigration status, the right to refuse to sign any papers without first consulting an attorney, and the right to seek help from a lawyer.

EXCEPT:  All persons (citizens and noncitizens) have limited rights when crossing the border and can be subject to questioning and searches.  See further guidance at https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/176/~/cbp-search-authority.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has put together an explanation of these rights and others related to what to do if contacted by a police officer or immigration agent. The information published by the ACLU is available in several languages and is available at: https://www.aclu.org/feature/know-your-rights-discrimination-against-immigrants-and-muslims?redirect=feature/know-your-rights-immigration#immigration.

Can Legal Aid help me with immigration legal problems? Close

Yes! Legal Aid may be able to assist low income U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, refugees, asylees, and non-citizen victims of crime, including domestic violence and human trafficking victims.

Learn more on Legal Aid’s immigration law practice here: https://lasclev.org/get-help/Immigration/

To apply for help from Legal Aid, call 1-888-817-3777. Or click here for information about Legal Aid’s offices and neighborhood clinics.

Legal Aid is a private, not for profit organization and not a government agency.  For information on other organizations that provide legal assistance to immigrants, contact 2-1-1.

What resources are available for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing? Close

As of summer 2017, new American Sign Language resources are available for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing!

Disability Rights Ohio and the Deaf Services Center worked together with support from the Ohio State Bar Foundation to create 18 videos explaining legal rights and remedies in ASL as well as services available through DRO.

The resources are available at http://www.disabilityrightsohio.org/deaf-hard-hearing.

Examples include “Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can get help to communicate in court” and “Your right to effective communication with medical and other treatment providers” among many other important topics.

Brochures

You Have The Right to an Interpreter
You have the right to an interpreter in your native
Legal Assistance for Immigrants
This brochure outlines what Legal Aid can do for Immigrants

Self Help

I need an interpreter for Court, what do I do?
In Ohio courts, you have the right to an interpreter

Success Stories

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Working together to #ExtendJustice
Our leadership with The Campaign for Legal Aid will extend the reach of justice to more families in Northeast Ohio.

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www.ExtendJustice.org

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Housing Justice Alliance
The Campaign for Legal Aid will support the Housing Justice Alliance - and we'll be the first community in Ohio to create a right to counsel when someone's home is at risk.

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www.lasclev.org/HousingJusticeAlliance

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The Campaign for Legal Aid
Steady growth in donor support through The Campaign for Legal Aid extends Legal Aid’s reach in Northeast Ohio.

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www.ExtendJustice.org

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