By a vote of 91-1, the U.S. Senate tonight approved U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) 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.
“The greatest achievement of the United States of America is that we’ve taken all this magnificent diversity from all over the world and we’ve turned it into one nation - a nation with a common heritage, a common history, a common language - something no other country in the world has been able to do nearly as well,” Alexander said. “This amendment is about redoubling our efforts to help immigrants who are legally here to become Americans by learning English, American history and our way of government.”
The senator had 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.
“These next few weeks, we should enact legislation to secure our borders, then we should create legal status for the workers and students we welcome here to increase our standard of living as well as export our values. But we should not complete our work on comprehensive immigration law without remembering why we have placed that three-word motto above the presiding officer’s chair, without remembering that our unity did not come without a lot of effort and that it’s more important today than ever to help prospective citizens become Americans,” Alexander said