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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. CHU. I stand in strong support of this amendment, which strikes language prohibiting direct appropriations funding for immigration integration grants.

Integrating immigrants into our society makes us a stronger Nation and a more united Nation. Having Federal policies in place to quickly integrate new citizens into our national fabric is and should remain an important priority for our government.

This should not be a solely Republican or Democratic priority. This is not a partisan issue. In fact, it has had strong support from leaders on both sides of the aisle. President George Bush created the Office of Citizenship during his Presidency because he recognized the importance of helping new citizens embrace their new home. The Office of Citizenship plays a key role in immigration integration by leading initiatives to promote citizenship awareness; providing grants to national and community-based organizations that prepare immigrants for citizenship; preparing educational materials for citizens and trying to expand integration and citizenship resources in communities.

And President Obama has picked up the torch from his predecessor, committing direct appropriations to an integration grant program that helps green card holders, who are all legal immigrants, get ready to become active participants in our democracy. These grants help legal residents navigate through the naturalization process, teach them about our Nation's history and government, and teach them English.

These programs benefit real people, immigrants who came to America for a better life. Immigrants like Phyllis, a 74-year-old grandmother who took a citizenship class in Maryland. Once a week for 8 weeks, she and her classmates, 20 of them, in fact, spent 2 hours learning the basics of American history and government and interview skills for a naturalization test. Phyllis moved to the U.S. from Sri Lanka to take care of her three grandsons. Being a citizen, knowing our laws, and speaking English will help her ensure those young boys grow up to be strong Americans themselves.

Immigrants who integrate into U.S. society go on to become informed voters, active community members, innovators, entrepreneurs, and future job creators. Whether they come on family or employment visas, through the asylum or refugee program, or through other smaller legal immigration programs, legal permanent residents come to this country with the dream of becoming U.S. citizens and giving back to their adopted home.

In the last 2 fiscal years, Congress has directly appropriated $11 million for integration grants. But this bill doesn't provide direct appropriations. Instead, it pulls the funds out of the examination fees account. And it goes a step further, expressly prohibiting direct funding for immigration integration grants.

But I think we should provide direct appropriations for these grants because immigration assimilation should be a national priority. Both sides agree that legal immigrants that want to become part of society and learn our laws and our language should be able to become citizens, and that's exactly what these funds do.

I urge all my colleagues to support this amendment to help our Nation and all its citizens, no matter where they were born, so that we can boost human potential and make this a stronger Nation.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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