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"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 a 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.” While the text of the Oath of Allegiance is not specified by federal law, 8 U.S.C. 1448 provides five principles of what the Oath of Allegiance must contain. They include,

"1) to support the Constitution of the United States; (2) to renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the applicant was before a subject or citizen; (3) to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; (4) to bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and (5)(A) to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law, or (B) to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law, or (C) to perform work

of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.” Since these principles are only guidelines, however, the text of the Oath of Allegiance can be changed on the whim of the government bureaucracy. In fact, such a change was to take place on September 17, 2003, which is Citizenship Day-the day on which we celebrate the signing of the Constitution. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services proposed to change the Oath of Allegiance to read,

“Solemnly, freely, and without any mental reservation, I hereby renounce under oath all allegiance to any foreign state. My fidelity and allegiance from this forward is to the United States of America. I pledge to support, honor, and be loyal to the United States, its Constitution and laws. Where and if lawfully required, I further commit myself to defend the Constitution and laws of the Ünited States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, either by military, non

combatant, or civilian service. This I do solemnly swear, so help me God.” The proposed changes intended to make the language more modern, but instead would transform an absolute commitment to the Constitution into a conditional statement and thereby weaken our citizenship.

It appears that the Bureau of Citizenship, and Immigration Services hastily drafted and proposed these changes. They rushed to implement the changes without going through the standard 60-day period for public comment. Even more revealing were the several grammatical errors throughout the text.

Most concerning are the substantive changes to the text that would have eliminated several forceful words and phrases, substantially weakening the charge to uphold and be faithful to the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Specifically, it eliminates the call to bear true faith and allegiance to” and “bear arms on behalf of" the Constitution. The addition of the words, “Where and if lawfully required,” before the charge to defend the Constitution causes me to wonder when we are not required to defend the Constitution. In addition, the Oath of Allegiance currently calls on Americans to “renounce, and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty,” while the proposed Oath of Allegiance renounces allegiance only to foreign states.

We should continue to welcome legal immigrants into our country. Yet as we continue to fight the war on terror, we must maintain a forceful and uncompromising Oath of Allegiance. Many of our terror threats are not from organized geopolitical states, but rather from groups like al Qaeda, led by potentates like Osama bin Laden. On March 11, 2004 in Madrid, we were reminded of the very real presence of organized, non-state sponsored terrorism aimed at the United States and our allies who are committed to eliminating global terrorism. The threat of terror and the attempts to infiltrate American society have not passed, nor has the need for a strong renunciation against all foreign sovereignties. Now is not the time to water down the words of commitment necessary to become a citizen of the United States of America.

That is why I introduced H.R. 3191, which would establish the Oath of Allegiance as federal law and give it the same protection as the Pledge of Allegiance and the

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National Anthem. Codifying the words of the Oath of Allegiance is a logical, necessary step to ensure that the Oath is held in high regard and protected from destructive changes.

Throughout our history, our nation has been strengthened by immigrants who came here to pursue the American dream. Establishing the Oath of Allegiance as the law of the land would remind all Americans-recent immigrants and life-long citizens alike—that pursuing that dream also requires a full-time commitment to citizenship; a commitment unlike what Thomas Paine once called the “summer soldier and the sunshine patriot” that shrank from the service of his country in times of crisis.

The scores of letters and phone calls I received from constituents indicate an overwhelming desire to preserve the forceful language of the Oath of Allegiance. Should there ever be a sentiment to change this great Oath, however, it should only be done after careful consideration that results in a strengthened meaning of our citizenship. With the passage of H.R. 3191, any such change could only occur by an act of Congress.

The Oath of Allegiance should continue to support freedom, democracy, and our Constitutional rights. I believe that we can ensure this for decades to come by establishing the Oath of Allegiance as Federal law. I urge the Judiciary Committee to pass #.R. 3191 and send it to the full House of Representatives.

Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Congressman Ryun.

Mr. Aguilar, you are recognized for 5 minutes. STATEMENT OF ALFONSO AGUILAR, CHIEF OF THE OFFICE OF

CITIZENSHIP, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERV. ICES, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Mr. AGUILAR. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. I want to thank the Chairman for holding this hearing on such an important topic to our nation.

As you have raised the issue of the Department of Homeland Security's possible administrative revision of the Oath of Allegiance last September, I will start my testimony by providing some additional insight on exactly what happened last year. In the broader context of making the naturalization process more meaningful, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began researching what work had already been done in this area.

In our research, we noted the recommendations of the bipartisan Barbara Jordan Commission, a Congressional commission, which, in its final report to Congress in 1997 recommended that the Oath of Allegiance be revised. We considered the language and found that it would be a good starting point.

Although DHS worked on an interim rule to revise the oath, the rule was never published in the Federal Register. It was never issued. In fact, a draft version was prematurely leaked to the media and was unfortunately interpreted to be an effort to undermine the current oath. DHS chose not to issue this rule due to the considerable public reaction, both positive and negative, to this potential change. But the reaction is the most telling evidence that the concept and meaning of U.S. citizenship is relevant to people from all walks of life, from all political parties and backgrounds. And based on this, we decided that no action should be taken without participation from Congress and the American public.

Now that I have given some insight on what happened last year, I would like to speak about the bigger picture of naturalization and civic integration. Last year, the United States welcomed more than 455,000 new Americans through the process of naturalization. As we prepare our immigrants for U.S. citizenship, we must foster a sense of allegiance to their new country. Congress and the President recognized this through the creation of the Office of Citizenship within the Homeland Security Act of 2002, and since its creation, the Office of Citizenship has taken an ambitious and critically important agenda designed to promote civic integration among newly-arrived immigrants and also to promote awareness of the rights and responsibilities associated with U.S. citizenship.

Preparing immigrants to integrate into the civic culture of the United States requires reaching out to new immigrants at the earliest opportunity to provide them with information they need to adhere to American constitutional principles, develop loyalty to America and actively participate in U.S. civic life. It also requires making the process of naturalization more meaningful, so that immigrants who choose to become citizens have a real understanding of the commitment they are making when they take the Oath of Allegiance.

The significance of the naturalization process is highlighted in the Department of Homeland Security's strategic plan, and I quote, citizenship through naturalization is the ultimate privilege of the immigration system. We will place renewed emphasis on a national effort to cultivate an awareness and understanding of American civic values and to underwrite commitment to United States citizenship. We will promote education and training on citizenship rights, privileges and responsibilities to not only enhance the naturalization experience but also to ensure that the immigration system promotes a civic identity for diverse citizens.

Now, although the Oath of Allegiance is critical to the process of naturalization in many ways, its primary purpose is legal rather than symbolic, unlike the national anthem or Pledge of Allegiance. Taking the Oath of Allegiance at a public naturalization ceremony is typically required in order to effect the applicant's change of status from lawful permanent resident to citizen of the United States of America. The oath has legal significance. In fact, an individual can be subject to denaturalization if he or she is found not to have taken the oath in good faith and without mental reservation.

We have heard from a broad variety of stakeholders from across the political spectrum that the Oath of Allegiance should be updated for several reasons. First, the language of the current oath has been described as archaic by some stakeholders, including representatives of the Citizenship Roundtable, a joint project of the American Legion and the Hudson Institute; second, the current Oath of Allegiance has been criticized for its convoluted, legalistic and cumbersome grammar and sentence structure.

In 1997, the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform recommended that the oath be revised to make it comprehensible, solemn and meaningful. Finally, we have heard concerns that a revision of the current oath might result in weaker language, and this is totally contrary to the goal of a revision, which is to strengthen the Oath of Allegiance and make it relevant in today's society.

Congress has acted on the oath. It established principles for the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance and codified them in section 337(a) of the Immigration and Naturalization (sic) Act.

With regard to the grammar and sentence structure, the current oath includes legalistic and cumbersome phrasing. It also has un

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necessary redundancies, such as the phrase absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure. At times, immigrants, particularly those who are non-native English speakers, have difficulty repeating the current Oath of Allegiance.

At this time, the Department of Homeland Security continues to study a revision of the Oath of 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, as I have said before, through the Immigration and Naturalization Act, has provided a clear mandate on the necessary content and substance of the Oath of Allegiance. They are not guidelines; they are requirements that have to be included in the oath.

The Executive Branch has the responsibility, both the responsibility to develop language to meet the legislative requirement and the discretion to make periodic revisions to the oath to make 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 rulemaking process. This would, in our view, lead to the best possible result in terms of comprehensibility, appropriateness of language, solemnity, meaning and adherence to 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 a revision of the Oath of Allegiance, please be assured that Congress and the American public will have ample opportunity to provide comments on any proposed change prior to implementation.

We look forward to working with Congress and other stakeholders to ensure that the Oath of 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, and I thank you for your invitation, and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. [The prepared statement of Mr. Aguilar follows:]

PREPARED STATEMENT OF ALFONSO AGUILAR Good afternoon Chairman Hostettler, Ranking Member Jackson Lee and Members of the Subcommittee. My name is Alfonso Aguilar and I have the honor of serving as the first Chief of the Office of Citizenship within the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Last year the United States welcomed more than 455,000 new Americans through the process of naturalization. As we prepare our immigrants for U.S. citizenship, we must foster a sense of allegiance to their new country. Congress and the President recognized this through the creation of the Office of Citizenship within the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Since its creation, the Office of Citizenship has undertaken an ambitious, and critically important agenda designed to promote civic integration among newly arrived immigrants and also to promote awareness of the rights and responsibilities associated with U.S. citizenship.

Preparing immigrants to integrate into the civic culture of the United States requires reaching out to new immigrants at the earliest opportunity to provide them with the information and tools they need to adhere to American constitutional principles, develop loyalty to America, and actively participate in U.S. civic life. It also requires making the process of naturalization more meaningful so that those immigrants who choose to become citizens have a real understanding of the commitment they are making when they take the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance to the United States.

The significance of the naturalization process is highlighted in the Department of Homeland Security's Strategic Plan: “Citizenship through naturalization is the ultimate privilege of the immigration system. We will place renewed emphasis on a na

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tional effort to cultivate an awareness and understanding of American civic values and to underwrite commitment to United States citizenship. We will promote education and training on citizenship rights, privileges and responsibilities, to not only enhance the naturalization experience, but also to ensure that our immigration system promotes a common civic identity for diverse citizens.”

In addition, in President Bush's January 7, 2004 unveiling of the Temporary Worker Proposal, he emphasized that any fundamental immigration reform should recognize the importance of citizenship and he has set high expectations for what new citizens should know about our history and government. He has charged USCIS with examining the standard of knowledge in the current citizenship test, to ensure that new citizens know not only the facts of our history, but also the ideals that have shaped our history.

Although the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance is critical to the process of naturalization in many ways, its primary purpose is legal rather than symbolic, unlike the national anthem or pledge of allegiance. Taking the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance at a public naturalization ceremony is typically required in order to effect the applicant's change of status from lawful permanent resident to citizen of the United States of America. The Oath has legal significance—in fact an individual can be subject to denaturalization if he or she is found not to have taken the Oath in good faith and without mental reservations.

We have heard from a broad variety of stakeholders from across the political spectrum that the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance should be updated for several reasons. First, the language of the current Oath has been described as archaic by some stakeholders, including representatives of the Citizenship Roundtable, a joint project of the American Legion and the Hudson Institute. Second, the current Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance has been criticized for its convoluted, legalistic and cumbersome grammar and sentence structure. In 1997, the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform recommended that the Oath be revised to make it "comprehensible, solemn and meaningful.” Finally, we have heard concerns that a revision of the current Oath might result in weaker language. This is totally contrary to the goal of a revision, which is to strengthen the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance and make it relevant in today's society.

The principles embodied in the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance are codified in Section 337(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which provides that all applicants shall take an Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance that incorporates the substance of the following:

(1) Support the Constitution; (2) Renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to

any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the ap

plicant was before a subject or citizen; (3) Support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States

against all enemies, foreign and domestic; (4) Bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and (5) (A) Bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; or

(B) Perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States
when required by the law; or
(C) Perform work of national importance under civilian direction when re-

quired by the law. The language of the current Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance—while derived from earlier versions of the Oath—is

the product of Immigration and Naturalization Service rule making in the 1950's. The Oath includes words such as “abjure” and "potentate”, which were not in common use at that time, let alone now. The Oath clearly is closely based upon the statutory elements in section 337(a), but it does not repeat them all verbatim; for example, it omits the first statutory element, “Support the Constitution,” as adequately included within the third element, relating to the support and defense of the Constitution and laws against enemies. Because the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance is the cornerstone of the applicant's commitment to the United States, its institutions, and its people, it is critical that applicants unequivocally understand the commitment they are making to this country. Both immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens have trouble making sense of the current language.

With regard to grammar and sentence structure, the current Oath includes legalistic and cumbersome phrasing, such as “of whom or which I have heretofore.” It also has unnecessary redundancy, such as the phrase “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure.” At times, immigrants, particularly those who are non-native

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