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English speakers, have difficulty repeating the current Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance. The Oath could be made clearer if the clauses were broken up in a manner that improves both the comprehensibility of the Oath and the dignity of the occasion.

At this time, DHS continues to study a revision of the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance. If a decision is made to revise the Oath, we believe the formal administrative regulatory process is the most appropriate means to do so. Congress, through the Immigration and Nationality Act, has provided a clear mandate on the necessary content and substance of the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance. The Executive branch has both the responsibility to develop language to meet the legislative requirement and the discretion to make periodic revisions to the Oath to keep it current and relevant. Revising the Oath administratively will allow a full opportunity for the public to provide comment on any proposed change through a rule making process. This would, in our view, lead to the best possible result in terms of comprehensibility, appropriateness of language, solemnity, meaning, and adherence to the principles set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

We appreciate the interest Congress has shown and have listened to your concerns and ideas on this issue. If we proceed to propose a revision of the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance, please be assured that Congress and the American public will have ample opportunity to provide comments on any proposed changes prior to implementation.

The Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance is the culmination of an immigrant's preparation to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, but it is not the end of the process of becoming a citizen. The extent to which a new citizen is actually a "good citizen” depends upon many factors, not least of which is an understanding and acceptance of the commitment made to the United States of America. Reciting the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance, regardless of the language, does not guarantee that the new citizen will be a good citizen. By choosing to become a U.S. citizen, these immigrants must accept both the responsibilities and the rights of citizenship. The USCIS Office of Citizenship is working to ensure that both new immigrants and new citizens are educated about these rights and responsibilities. The end result of these efforts will be a stronger America with a common civic identity that unites its diverse citizens.

We look forward to working with Congress and other stakeholders to ensure that the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance and the process of naturalization are meaningful, so that our new citizens have a full understanding of their rights and responsibilities to this country.

This concludes my prepared remarks. I thank you for the invitation to testify before this committee and I would be happy to answer any questions.

The current Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance appears in Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations:

Sec. 337.1 Oath of allegiance. (a) Form of oath. Except as otherwise provided in the Act and after receiving notice from the district director that such applicant is eligible for naturalization pursuant to Sec. 335.3 of this chapter, an applicant for naturalization shall, before being admitted to citizenship, take in a public ceremony held within the United States the following oath of allegiance, to a copy of which the applicant shall affix his or her signature:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you Mr. Aguilar.
Dr. Fonte?

STATEMENT OF JOHN FONTE, SENIOR FELLOW,

THE HUDSON INSTITUTE Mr. FONTE. Thank you, Chairman Hostettler.

My testimony today has the endorsement of the Citizenship Roundtable and the alliance of the Hudson Institute and the American Legion that was formed in 1999 to strengthen citizenship and promote the patriotic assimilation of immigrants into the American

way of life.

American Legion Resolution 169 opposes any and all changes that would dilute the five core elements of the oath. We commend Congressman Jim Ryun for introducing this legislation to reaffirm America's commitment to the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance, and we also salute officials at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, particularly the new chief of the Office of Citizenship, Alfonso Aguilar, who, I know, has been working very hard on this crucial issue and has some excellent ideas on the subject of the oath.

This issue is important because the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance is essential to American democracy. It is central to who we are as a people. At the core of American self-government is the principle, "we the people of the United States.” In taking this oath, the immigrant is voluntarily leaving a previous people and joining the American people. The newcomer is transferring sole political allegiance from his or her birth nation to the United States of America and also from any foreign sovereignty or political actor.

Now, for more than two centuries, this transfer of allegiance has been a central feature of our nation's great success in assimilating immigrants into what has been called the American way of life. We are not simply a nation of immigrants. We are a nation of assimilated immigrants and their descendants. The oath is central to America because of the kind of country that we are. If we were, like many other countries, a regime based on race or ethnicity or religion, the oath would not be crucial.

However, unlike most other countries, our nationhood is not based on these factors but instead on political loyalty to American constitutional democracy, so it is precisely because we are a nation of assimilated immigrants that we must be serious about the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance.

Now, this oath, this transfer of allegiance is at the heart of citizenship and naturalization. To retain allegiance to another constitution besides the American Constitution and thus to belong to another people besides the American people is inconsistent with the moral and philosophical foundations of American constitutional democracy. So it is vitally important that we have an oath that is rhetorically unambiguous and substantively significant to the majesty of American citizenship and the meaning of American citizenship.

Both Congressman Ryun and Senator Alexander are right that the current oath possesses powerful, historic and majestic language and phrases. We know that others disagree and object to words like abjure and potentate. Reasonable people can disagree about the utility of these two words. But what we feel is essential are three major points: first, that Congress should decide the oath. This is something for the elected representatives of the people; second, that the five elements of the current oath must be maintained. This should essentially be the “default position;" and third, that questions on the meaning of the oath should be part of the civics history test that applicants for citizenship take.

In today's post-9/11 and globalizing world of increasing transnational ties and continuous high immigration, it is more important than ever that the meaning of the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance remain clear to all citizens, immigrant and nativeborn alike. Therefore, we believe it is essential that questions on the meaning of the oath be incorporated into the history and Government test that applicants for citizenship take.

Candidates for citizenship, when they apply for naturalization, should be given study guides that explain the meaning of the oath and told that there will be questions about it on the test. In other words, it should be clearly explained to new citizens by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, that the oath means that they have a moral obligation to give up all political allegiance, loyalty and citizenship from their birth nations and from non-state actors and foreign powers; that upon taking this oath, their sole political allegiance is to the United States of America.

Incorporating the principles and elements of the oath in the citizenship test should not be difficult. Current candidates for citizenship are asked questions such as, “What is the Constitution?”, "What are the duties of Congress?” The current test also includes less appropriate questions, such as, “What form is used to apply to become a naturalized citizen?”

Certainly, candidates for American citizenship could be asked questions such as, “What do citizens promise to do when they take the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance?” “What is it they are doing?” So including questions on the meaning of the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance in the citizenship test would help make the naturalization process what it should be. It should be a rite of passage much as a communion or a confirmation or a bar or bat mitzvah or a wedding ceremony, for as James Madison declared in Federalist 49, our democratic republic requires both enlightened reason and a certain degree of veneration in order to endure.

From a serious orientation program at the beginning of the process when immigrants first apply to citizenship to studying for and passing the history and Government test and the language test to the final ceremony, the citizenship naturalization experience should be meaningful, dignified and inspiring. In short, it should foster patriotism.

For new Americans, the naturalization process should be a major life-altering experience. Thank you.

. [The prepared statement of Mr. Fonte follows:]

PREPARED STATEMENT OF JOHN FONTE Thank you, Chairman Hostettler. I am John Fonte, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the Center for American Common Culture. My testimony today has the endorsement of the Citizenship Roundtable, an alliance which the Hudson Institute and the American Legion formed in 1999 to strengthen citizenship, and to promote the patriotic assimilation of immigrants into the American way of life. I would like to introduce into the record American Legion Resolution Number 169 that states that:

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“The American Legion opposes any and all changes to the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance, as used in naturalization ceremonies, that would dilute or eliminate any of the following important and necessary elements of the Oath:

(1) Support for the Constitution of the United States of America (2) Renunciation of all allegiances to foreign states or sovereignties (3) Support for and defense of the Constitution and laws of the United States

of America against all enemies foreign and domestic (4) Bear 'true faith and allegiance to the United States of America and (5) Bear arms on behalf of the United States, or perform work of national im

portance on behalf of the United States.” We commend Congressman Jim Ryun for introducing this legislation to reaffirm America's commitment to the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance and to codify it into law. We also salute the officials at United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, particularly the Chief of the new Office of Citizenship, Alfonso Aguilar, who has been working hard on this crucial issue and has some excellent ideas on the subject of the Oath.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

This issue is important because the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance is central to American Democracy. It is central to who we are as a people. At the core of American self-government is the principle of “We the People of the United States,” the first words of our constitution expressing the principle of popular sovereignty. In taking this Oath, the immigrant is voluntarily joining “We the People,” the sovereign American People. The newcomer is transferring sole political allegiance from his or her birth nationsand from any other foreign sovereignty or political actor to the United States of America. For more than two centuries this “transfer of allegiance” has been a central feature of our nation's great success in assimilating immigrants into what has been called the American way of life. We are not simply a “nation of immigrants” we are a nation of assimilated immigrants and their descendants.

The Oath is central to America because of the kind of country that we are. If we were (like many other nations) a regime based on race or ethnicity or religion, the Oath would not be crucial. However, unlike most other countries our nationhood is not built on race, ethnicity, or religion, but, instead, on political loyalty to American constitutional democracy. It is precisely because we are a “nation of assimilated immigrants,” whose citizens come from all parts of the world, that we must be serious about the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance.

This Oathsthis transfer of allegiancesis at the heart of citizenship naturalization. To retain allegiance to another constitution besides the American Constitution, and thus to continue to belong to another people besides the American people, is inconsistent with the moral and philosophical foundation of American constitutional democracy.

Clearly, a self-governing people, such as the American people, has the right to determine the rules of admission to citizenship, to its political community and there is no evidence that the American people favor dropping the principle of transferring allegiance from the old country to United States, that has been part of our law since the Presidency of George Washington.

HISTORY OF THE OATH OF ALLEGIANCE

comers.

The history of the Oath could be roughly divided into two periods: the Founding Era of the 1790s and the Americanization period of the 20th century.

Founding Era. With immigration on the rise after American independence, the Congress

passed a series of laws regulating the citizenship naturalization of new

The Naturalization Acts of 1790 and 1795 required new citizens to take an oath of allegiance to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and to renounce all previous political allegiances. In addition, the new citizens were required to be of good moral character," "attached to the principles of the Constitution” and “well disposed to the good order of the United States." All of these requirements remain part of the law today.

The Founding Fathers favored what could be called the “patriotic assimilation" of immigrants into the mainstream of American life. Thus, George Washington wrote to John Adams that he envisioned immigrants getting "assimilated to our customs, measures, laws,” and because of this, Washington believed, native-born citizens and immigrants would “soon become one people.”

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In a 1790 speech to Congress on the naturalization of immigrants, James Madison stated that America should welcome immigrants who could assimilate, but exclude those who would “not incorporate” themselves into our society. Alexander Hamilton recommended gradually drawing newcomers into American life, "to enable aliens to get rid of foreign and acquire American attachments; to learn the principles and imbibe the spirit of our government; and to admit of a philosophy at least, of their feeling a real interest in our affairs."

Americanization period. During the period of large-scale immigration at the beginning of the 20th century America's political and civic leaders (including Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Louis Brandeis, Jane Addams) supported a policy "Americanization.'

In the spirit of Americanization Theodore Roosevelt declared that: “the immigrant who comes here in good faith [and] becomes an American and assimilates himself to us

shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin. But that is predicated upon the man's becoming an American and nothing but an American .

Roosevelt's chief political rival, Woodrow Wilson, also supported Americanization. He told a mass naturalization ceremony in 1915:

"I certainly would not be one even to suggest that a man cease to love the home of his birth and the nation of his origin-these things are very sacred and ought not to be put out of our hearts—but it is one thing to love the place where you were born and it is another to dedicate yourself to the place to which you go. You cannot dedicate yourself to America unless you become .

with every purpose of your will thoroughly Americans As part of this Americanization policy, citizenship naturalization requirements were standardized. In 1905 a Commission on Naturalization appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt recommended the following as a standard Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance (for a hypothetical immigrant from Great Britain):

“I John Smith, do solemnly swear that I support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, and particularly my allegiance to King Edward VII of whom Í was formerly a subject, and that I take this obligation freely without any men

tal reservation or purpose of evasion, so help me God.” In 1929 regulations for specific oath language were enacted that began with the renunciation of all allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty and followed with a promise to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” On the eve of World War II the phrase "I will bear arms on behalf of the United States” was added to the elements of the oath. The current oath based on the five elements, is as follows:

"I hereby declare on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject of citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

CONCLUSION: H.R. 3191 AND THE CENTRALITY OF THE FIVE ELEMENTS OF THE OATH

It is vitally important to have an Oath that is rhetorically unambiguous and inspiring, and substantively significant to the meaning of American citizenship. The language should be solemn and majestic. It must not be pedestrian. Above all, it should both focus the mind and stir the heart.

Congressman Jim Ryun has stated that we need a forceful and uncompromising Oath of Allegiance.” The Senate sponsor, Lamar Alexander, has declared that he likes the current Oath because “It has strength. It has clarity.”.

Congressman Ryun and Senator Alexander are certainly right that the current Oath possesses powerful, historic, and majestic language and phrases. We know

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