Washington, D.C. (June 7, 2012) — Republican Congressman Steve King on Thursday offered an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill (H.R. 5855) that would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from funding programs to ensure that Limited English Proficient people can fully access DHS services or interact with DHS employees.
The amendment passed by a vote of 224 to 189. Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and Representatives Bobby Scott (VA-3), Mike Honda (CA-15), and Zoe Lofgren (CA-16) released the following statements in response:
The King Amendment prohibits the use of Homeland Security funds to enforce Executive Order 13166, which states, in part, that “each Federal agency shall examine the services it provides and develop and implement a system by which LEP persons can meaningfully access those services consistent with, and without unduly burdening, the fundamental mission of the agency.”
The Executive Order ensures equal access to government services for people who, as a result of their national origin, have limited English proficiency. The Executive Order and the Justice Department LEP Guidance are designed to ensure that the federal government does not discriminate on the basis of national origin in violation of title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The amendment would dramatically impact the ability of federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security to fulfill their duties by eliminating funding for resources used to communicate with foreign-born persons. It would make it harder for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to communicate with people facing natural disasters, for the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Patrol to facilitate travel and trade at ports of entry and airports, and for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce our laws fairly.
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), CAPAC Chair: “This amendment is a reckless attempt to gut a program that many of our society’s most vulnerable citizens rely on. One in three Asian Americans identify as being limited English proficient, meaning many American citizens will be the primary victims of Rep. King’s amendment. And what would happen during a natural disaster if FEMA did not have LEP programs in place to communicate with those who are not fluent in English? By cutting funding for these programs, we cripple the Department’s ability to interact with those who are foreign born and directly endanger people’s lives.”
Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), CAPAC Civil Rights Taskforce Chair: “Eliminating funding for this program lacks common sense and is bad public policy. The Department of Homeland Security should not be limited in its ability to disseminate vital information about natural disasters or terrorism to the public, especially to those with limited English proficiency. This could potentially lead to unnecessary and easily avoidable harm to members of vulnerable communities who would otherwise be aware and informed if this program were not eliminated.”
Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15), CAPAC Immigration Taskforce Chair: “Rep. Steve King’s amendment to cut off Limited English Proficiency Funding (LEP) is simply wrong for America. Members of Congress have a responsibility to ensure that our country and government protect and provide for all Americans. Rep. King’s amendment abrogates that solemn responsibility.
It is unconscionable to even consider cutting invaluable and lifesaving services to taxpaying Americans, just because they have limited English proficiency (LEP). Of the 17 million Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI), 32 percent are limited English proficient. We must not imperil our nation’s health, economy, and moral standing by cutting funds and services that are crucial lifelines for communities from sea to shining sea. We must not forget the lessons from Hurricane Katrina, where government emergency entities and mainstream relief agencies failed to safeguard the livelihoods and lives of many LEP AAPIs. In my time as Chair of CAPAC, I led the effort to ensure that minority communities received equal access to disaster relief services. As the current Chair Emeritus, I will continue to fight for the health and prosperity of our nation’s most vulnerable communities – that work includes fighting against Rep. Steve King’s amendment every single step of the way.”
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-16), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee: “How can an agency that encounters foreign-born persons with limited English proficiency do its job if it is prohibited from implementing this Executive Order? How can it help to facilitate legitimate trade and travel across our borders without meaningfully communicating with such persons? How can it ensure that foreign-born U.S. citizens not be wrongfully detained and deported? Supporters of the amendment complain that it is overly burdensome, but the Executive Order itself and the Department’s LEP Plan only require actions that are not an undue burden.”