October ___ , 1999
The Honorable Benjamm L. Cardin
U. S. House of Representatives
104 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
RE: INA Amendment/
«The Senior Citizenship Act»
Dear Congressman Cardin:
I urge you to express your support for the bill «The Senior Citizenship Act–1999» which was introduced by Congressman Jerrold Nadler on September 17, 1999, regarding literacy requirements for the elderly.
This bill amends the Section 312 (b) (3) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act to make the process of becoming citizens easier for elderly immigrants. This legislation provides that individuals over sixty years of age would be able to take citizenship examination in a language of their choice, and individuals over seventy years of age would be exempt from the history and civics lest. These seniors would still have to meet every other requirement for citizenship, must demonstrate good moral character before becoming citizens and have to take an oath of allegiance.
Currently, even 95–year–old, who immigrated 5 years ago, is expected to pass a naturalization exam in English, «The Technical Correction Act–l994» gave a special consideration «for people over 65 years of age who have been lived in the U. S. for periods totaling at least 20 years subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence». However common sense dictates that to learn a foreign language for 70–90–year old immigrants in 5 years is extremely difficult due to their memory aggravation, low perception and learning disability, «The INS is sympathetic to the situation.. and realizes that learning a new language can be an extremely difficult task for many older persons», wrote on behalf of the INS acting Associate Commissioner Gerri L. Ratliff in October 1998.
«Making rights contingent an language capabilities would never pass constitutional muster.. Denying permanent resident aliens the vote, public benefits and other rights because they cannot pass a test is unfair, hinders their integration into the national community and adds another administrative (and financial!) burden» to the INS, says Dr. Peter Spiro, a law professor at Hofstra University.
When the elderly people desire to be American citizens in order to become full and equal members of the society and to enjoy their right to vote, they deserve some compassion and respect. The fact that elderly people are not conversant in English should not prevent them from becoming citizens because the wide scope of ethnic media keeps immigrants updated on every issue of the American life daily. Allowing seniors to take a standard examination for citizenship in the language of their choice, will be no more than a humanitarian gesture which would eliminate unnecessary stress and exacerbating of ailments in elderly and mostly disabled people. Such an amendment will simplify process of naturalization of elderly people, will save a lot of resources for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and reduce the current backlog of about two million citizenship applications.
Thank you for your courtesy, understanding, humanity and support.
Sincerely yours, ______________________