Today the U.S. House of Representative adopted H.R.6223, a bill introduced by Congressman Charlie Dent, removing hurdles faced by individuals classified as Legal Permanent Residents who are providing translation, interpretation and security services to the Department of State or at our embassies.
Under existing rules, these dedicated individuals are unable to become naturalized citizens due to the fact that the vital services and duties they are rendering America overseas preclude them from meeting the residency and physical presence requirements of individuals who desire to become citizens. (Individuals who want to become naturalized citizens are required to maintain a continuous physical presence in the United States for one full year.)
Currently, for example, a Legal Permanent Resident, who desires to become an American citizen, but serving at our Embassy in Iraq providing security protection to Department of State personnel would be unable to meet the residency and physical presence requirements necessary for them to realize their goal of citizenship.
"These dedicated individuals are doing America a great service, often under dangerous conditions and in highly volatile environments," said Congressman Dent.
"As Americans we know it is unfair that people who so greatly wish to become American citizens should be penalized bureaucratically while they are making critical contributions to our country in the war against terrorism across the globe," said Dent.
The positive impact of Congressman Dent's bill, should it become law, will certainly be felt by at least one resident of the 15th Congressional District he represents.
George Bou Jaoudeh, from Bethlehem, is a Green Card holder of Lebanese descent. He experienced a disruption of his naturalization process because his work -- with the Department of State in Iraq providing security for diplomats -- prevented him from maintaining a one-year long continuous presence in The United States. Bou Jaoudeh performed with distinction while in Iraq. Ryan Crocker, our Ambassador at the time, credited the Bethlehem man with saving his life on more than one occasion.
Representative Dent thanked and praised Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee for the role that Chairman Smith played in helping move the sensible measure through the House. "This could not have been achieved without Chairman Smith's assistance," said Congressman Dent. Dent had first introduced this bill in 2010.
For his part, Chairman Smith was glad to be able to help usher this bill through the House:
"I thank Congressman Dent for his work on this bill that honors the legal permanent residents who serve the United States in critical capacities in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world. This important bill makes a common sense change to our immigration laws to facilitate their path to citizenship."
Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) has introduced a companion bill S.3643 in the Senate.