Repealing Executive Order 13166
Executive Order 13166, also known as “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency,” states that any entity which receives federal funds must provide whatever services it offers in any foreign language spoken by anyone likely to receive those services. It states that failure to do so is likely to constitute “discrimination on the basis of national origin” as prohibited by Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights law.
Signed by President Clinton on August 11, 2000, the order directs all federal agencies to draft plans to “improve access to federally conducted or federally assisted programs for persons who, as a result of national origin, are limited in their English proficiency.”
This executive order gives the United States hundreds of all-but-official languages. We urge President Obama to overturn this order, and rescind the Justice Department guidelines which accompanied it. ProEnglish is fighting this order in every way we can, including in the courts and in Congress.
ProEnglish supports Rep. Peter King’s legislative effort to declare Executive Order 13166 “null and void.”
ProEnglish believes that EO13166 must be rescinded for the following reasons:
1. Overreach: It uses power that was never delegated by Congress.
Executive Order 13166 has been repeatedly denied to the Executive Branch by the courts. When Congress wrote the 1964 Civil Rights Law, language was never considered a basis for determining discrimination. It is self-evident that a person’s national origin, which cannot be changed, is not the same as the language someone speaks. Numerous court decisions have rejected attempts to equate language used with discrimination.
2. Expensive: The order is another huge unfunded federal mandate.
The order directs federal funds recipients to pay for the enormous cost of providing translation and interpreter services from their own funds. There is no federal reimbursement. It covers tens of thousands of state and local government agencies as well as government contractors. It affects schools, libraries, hospitals, unemployment offices, fire and police departments, public health clinics, and countless private agencies that receive direct or indirect support from the federal government. The order says that compliance is not limited to written translations, meaning that oral interpreter services have to be made available unless there are compelling reasons not to do so. This means hiring tens of thousands of additional employees as translators and interpreters. The order’s cost to taxpayers at all levels of government could easily total tens of billions of dollars.
OMB estimated in a 2002 report to Congress entitled, Assessment of the Total Benefits and Costs of Implementing Executive Order No. 13166: Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency, that the total national cost of providing language assistance services to LEP individuals could be as high as $1 billion to $2 billion annually. However, the size of the federal government is approximately twice as large as it was in 2002.
In 2009, the Fraser Institute released a study that revealed that Canada, a country with roughlyone-tenth the population of the United States, spent between $1.6 billion and $1.8 billion in 2006 to provide taxpayer-funded government services in French as well as English. In the U.S., over 300 languages are spoken, and we can extrapolate our cost to be ten times Canada’s. ProEnglish believes that the burden to subsidize immigrants and non-English-speaking Americans who avoid learning English should not fall on American taxpayers.
Although EO 13166 requires federal agencies to ensure funds recipients are compliant, the agencies themselves do not report how much this unfunded mandate costs federal funds recipients each year. In an effort to require that all federal agencies simply report the annual amounts spent on providing these multilingual services, ProEnglish strongly supported and urged Congress to pass Rep. Virginia Foxx’s (R-NC) Multilingual Accounting Services Act. The bill would have required more transparency in the government’s accounting practices and more accountability with the use of taxpayer money.
American citizens have a fundamental right to know how much of their money is being spent to provide translations and interpreters for people who refuse to learn English. Federal agencies currently refuse to report how much they spend on these services every year, so they are covering up the true costs of multilingual dependency.
3. “Unintended” consequences: The order has an enormous impact.
Although it states that it “does not create any new rights or benefits,” the order’s redefinition of “national origins discrimination” as equivalent to language will have an enormous impact. The executive order is already being implemented in the healthcare field. The American Medical Association (AMA) warned that the executive order could create serious access problems, even for people with limited English proficiency.
4. Trial lawyer bailout: The action is certain to result in more litigation.
The order will add billions of dollars in legal costs to settle civil rights lawsuits against both government and private agencies, which are found not to be in “meaningful compliance” with the order. It also opens up a whole new field of medical malpractice liability.
5. Faulty and inefficient: The order defies common sense.
The requirement to provide services in a multiplicity of languages will introduce confusion and error into government operations, encumber or impede the delivery of government services, and unfairly penalize people who are not bilingual.