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California in Congress

With Spanish still missing from the White House website, Rep. Lou Correa pushes for Spanish-language government websites

 (Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times)
(Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times)

The day Donald Trump became president, the Spanish language translation of the White House’s website went down. An aide quickly said that Spanish version would return once the site was fully updated.

Nearly two months later, there is still no Spanish version of WhiteHouse.gov, and Rep. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) is turning to his colleagues in Congress for a fix.

Correa has filed legislation to require the White House and all federal agencies to provide a Spanish language version of their sites.

"It's really just a matter of making government more transparent, more accountable, more effective for more people," Correa told The Times. "At the end of the day it doesn't matter what language you speak, you're ultimately still a taxpayer."

Correa represents California's 46th Congressional District, where more than half of residents speak Spanish at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2015 American Community Survey.

He said the bill could be expanded to include other languages.

Correa began asking the White House to restore the Spanish version of the White House site shortly after it went down and has received no response, he said.

"I look at it as a public policy decision that the White House has made," he said. "You don't need to take the darn thing down, you just leave it up, it was a public policy decision to take it down. Based on why, I'm not going to speculate."

The day after the page came down in January, White House Director of Media Affairs Helen Aguirre Ferre said it would be rebuilt and removing the Spanish translation was not deliberate.

On Friday she said they are still still rebuilding the English language version of the site and "will also build a Spanish language one as well." She said there was no promise to restore it quickly.

In the meantime, she directed people to a Twitter account, @LaCasaBlanca, which publishes tweets in Spanish and English.

Spanish language versions of department and agency websites popped up after President Clinton signed an executive order in 2000 that required federal agencies to provide for people with limited English proficiency. A Department of Justice guideline issued with the order states that federally funded agencies have to make information available either in text or audio to people who don’t speak or read English well.

The order led to the creation of GobiernoUSA.gov, the Spanish language portal to government websites, but most of the major federal departments still provide spotty language access to their sites.

The websites for Housing and Urban Development, the Justice Department, the Transportation Department and the Labor Department all have links prominently displayed on their homepage directing people to a Spanish translation. 

The Education and Health and Human Services departments direct those who want a translation to call a phone number for assistance. Others have translations, but they are hard to find. Seven departments have no translation and no indications of whether a translator is available to help.

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