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

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: 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: 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.

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