Sen. Alexander Unveils Strengthening American Citizenship Amendment to Immigration Bill

Posted on March 30, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today unveiled an amendment to the immigration reform bill to encourage legal immigrants who are prospective citizens to become American by learning English, American history and our way of government. “As the Senate confronts the issue of immigration, we should first enact legislation to secure our borders. Then we should create a legal status for those who temporarily work and study here, helping create a higher standard of living here and exporting our values abroad better than foreign aid ever has,” Alexander said. “But our work on immigration reform will not be complete until we help prospective citizens become Americans. “Our country’s greatest accomplishment is based upon the principle that we have united people from many backgrounds into one nation, based upon our belief in a few ideas rather than upon race, ancestry or background,” Alexander said. “Of all the principles that we will be debating these next two weeks, none is more important than the one we have chosen as our national motto. It is carved in stone above the presiding officer’s desk in the Senate chamber: E Pluribus Unum, one from many.” The senator has offered the language from his Strengthening American Citizenship Act as an amendment to the immigration reform bill. The amendment: · Helps and encourages prospective citizens to learn English by providing grants of up to $500 for English language courses to legal immigrants who declare their intent to become American citizens; and allowing citizenship applicants who speak fluent English to meet the residency requirement after four years of living in the U.S. rather than five; · Helps and encourages prospective citizens learn more about the American way of life by establishing a foundation to support the activities of the Office of Citizenship within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); and providing grants for organizations to offer civics, history and English courses; · Codifies the Oath of Allegiance, which today is written only in federal regulations, but not in law, thereby giving it the same standing as the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, and; · Celebrates new citizens by instructing the DHS to develop and implement a strategy to raise public awareness of naturalization ceremonies; and establishing an award for citizens that have been naturalized within the last ten years and made outstanding contributions to our nation. “Some suggest that our diversity is what makes our country great. To be sure, diversity is one of our strengths, but diversity is not our greatest strength,” Alexander said. “Jerusalem is diverse. The Balkans are diverse. Iraq is diverse. The greatest accomplishment of the United States of America is that we have molded that magnificent diversity into one nation based upon a set of common principles, language and traditions. That is why the words above the desk say ‘One from many,’ not ‘many from one.’” Strengthening American Citizenship Act S. 1815 ___________________________________________ 1. Helping Prospective Citizens Learn English · Provides education grants up to $500 for English courses to legal immigrants who declare intent to become an American citizen. · Allows citizenship applicants who speak fluent English to meet the residency requirement after four years of living in the United States rather than five. 2. Helping Prospective Citizens Learn More about the American Way of Life · Establishes a foundation to support the activities of the Office of Citizenship (within the Department of Homeland Security). · Provides for grants to organizations to provide civics, history, and English courses. 3. Codifying the Oath of Allegiance · Codifies the language of the Oath of Allegiance – based on language from Alexander-Schumer bill (S. 1087). 4. Celebrating New Citizens · Establishes an award for citizens that have been naturalized within the last ten years and made an outstanding contribution to the American nation. · Instructs the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and implement a strategy to raise public awareness of naturalization ceremonies.