January 21, 2014

WASHINGTON—Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), issued the following statement commemorating the 40th anniversary of Lau v. Nichols, the Supreme Court case finding that civil rights protections required San Francisco schools to provide bilingual education to their Chinese-speaking students.

Lau v. Nichols stands as a seminal case for America’s diverse communities, firmly finding that civil rights law prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin, including spoken language, and requires that federal programs and activities provide oral interpretation and written translation services.

Lau, together with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, provides the foundation for America’s commitment to equity and access. Language barriers can stand in the way of full participation of all Americans from their most fundamental access to education, health care, and law and justice programs.

With 25 million limited-English proficient Americans, including 4 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the decision holds just as much meaning today as it did 40 years ago. The Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination requirement serves as a recommitment to Lau’s ideal, extending these protections to the health care arena.

We must continue to build on these efforts and ensure strong and robust protections are available for all Americans.”