Rubio’s English requirement receives criticism

Photo by Gage Skidmore courtesy of Creative Commons.

Junette Reyes/ Opinion Director

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is a Senate bill that, if passed, would be responsible for the strengthening of border security alongside the legalization of approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The bill presents Registered Provisional Immigrant Status, a preconceived step in which immigrants would begin their path towards legal status, so long as they have been physically present in the U.S. since before Dec. 31, 2011.

Once this status has been established, these immigrants will then be able to apply for permanent residency, given they have maintained their presence in the U.S., paid their taxes, acquired employment and have taken classes to learn English, government and history.

This language requirement, met by enrolling in English classes, bothers some, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, one of five senior fellows in the School of International and Public Affairs.

In a press release on the senator’s website, Rubio proposed an amendment to the bill as a means of fixing this shortcoming by requiring immigrants to prove their proficiency in English. This means they would have to show their ability of understanding the language to the point of reading, writing and speaking the words accordingly, as opposed to simply taking a course.

“On the day we announced the principles that would shape the immigration bill, we made it clear that English proficiency would now be required for permanent residency for the first time in American history,” said Rubio. “This amendment ensures that will be the case.”

Reactions to the amendment have varied.

A poll on shows that 53 percent of voters believe that immigrants applying for legal status should be proficient in English, while 30 percent voted no and the remaining 17 percent voted maybe.

Finance and international business major Giorgio Izzo said that while he understands Rubio’s concern over the negatives of immigration legislation, he considers the amendment to be the most closed-minded way of dealing with it.

“In simplest terms, I believe this requirement treads on the American values of welcoming immigrants throughout our history,” said Izzo. “I firmly believe it is an attack on globalization and global citizenship as a whole; a country that does not tolerate non-English speakers is deliberately closing its borders on international citizens.”

Izzo additionally said that there would be no need to impose such a law, as immigrants would learn on their own that being fluent in English is necessary.

International Business and Marketing major Santiago Diaz, on the other hand, believes that immigrants should be able to communicate, although proficiency should be defined more clearly.

“If you want to stay, you should adapt or at least try to, [as] effort is well compensated,” said Diaz.

Juan Carlos Gomez, clinical assistant professor of law, said that while this may affect hard working people in the community such as students’ parents, he does not see the amendment as a troubling obstacle because there are always exceptions and waivers.

“In naturalization, there are exceptions for people who don’t have the capacity. Medical waivers are granted all the time, in terms of naturalization. Everything from people who have a mental or physical disability [that keeps them] from learning English to people who are just developmentally delayed,” said Gomez.

Still, Gomez does not think it’s wise to predict the probability of the amendment being passed, as he believes it creates false expectations and false hopes.

“Guessing at what will be in the final bill(s) is not a productive use of time,” Gomez said.

However, Gomez does think that people should not get in the way of giving others a chance, especially those that have previously benefited from different levels of immigration law.

“I think that at this point, in the communities and the advocacy, the focus has to be on convincing people opposed to any kind of immigration reform, or any productive immigration reform, to support productive immigration reform and not be destructive,” said Gomez.

“It’s horrible that there are people out there who are ‘in the door’ and don’t want to give somebody else a chance,” said Gomez.


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