One of the interesting pieces of the Senate immigration reform proposal released yesterday is the list of requirements for legal permanent residency status for undocumented immigrants. Their proposal would not only require those individuals to “go to the back of the line” of other prospective immigrants, but also require them to meet a more burdensome set of requirements for achieving permanent residency status than are required of other immigrants.
I’m specifically thinking about the English requirement: Under current law/regulations, when you apply for permanent legal status (a green card), there is no requirement that you know how to speak, read, or write English. It’s only when you apply for citizenship that you must “be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).”
But as I noted yesterday, the Senate proposal would require undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S. to, among other things, “learn English and civics” in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. It would appear, in other words, that they intend to apply the English requirement now just needed to qualify for full citizenship to the list of qualifications that undocumented immigrants must meet to just get to the permanent residency stage.
If that is the case, this suggests to me that under this plan we’d see a pretty big upsurge in demand for adult English instruction right from the get-go. Where the supply is going to come from is another question.
It’s also worth noting that under the current requirements for citizenship there are are exceptions to the requirement that applicants for citizenship know English. Specifically, applicants are exempt from the English requirement, (but not the civics test) if they are:
- Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (green card holder) in the U.S. for 20 years; or
- Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the U.S. for 15 years.
Applicants may also be eligible for an exception to both the English and civics requirements if they are “unable to comply with these requirements because of a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment.”
It remains to be seen whether similar exceptions will be included in the English requirement for permanent residency that is apparently going to be part of the immigration reform package introduced by the Senate.