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Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Dr. Fonte.
Dr. Schoenholtz?

STATEMENT OF ANDREW SCHOENHOLTZ, DEPUTY DIRECTOR,

INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

Mr. SCHOENHOLTZ. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It is an honor to be here speaking with everyone.

Comprehensible, solemn and meaningful, that is what the naturalization oath of the United States should be, declared the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform in 1997, after considered reflection. As the former deputy director of the Commission, I am pleased to explain to you why the Commission reached that conclusion and proposed a new oath.

First, a word on the Commission. Congress established and funded this body for a period of 5 years, from 1992 to 1997, to study and make recommendations on the reform of our immigration laws and policies where needed. The Commission consisted of nine members: four appointed by the Senate, two Republicans and two Democrats; four appointed by the House, two Republicans and two Democrats, and the chair appointed by the President. Former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan chaired the commission until her death in 1996, when former Education Secretary and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Shirley Hufstedler became chair.

Importantly, the Commission worked by consensus. Most decisions were unanimous. The decision to recommend a new oath was agreed to by all nine commissioners. With respect to the oath, the Commission first examined the current law, which has remained unchanged since its enactment in 1952. The statute requires the five elements that have already been discussed today.

The Commission determined that the statute continued to serve the national interests of the United States and did not need any change. The Commission then carefully examined the form of the oath that the Executive Branch established pursuant to regulation. The commissioners found that form wanting, particularly in terms of clarity. They doubted that most people understood the dated language of abjure and potentate, the archaic form and the convoluted grammar of that oath.

They believed, however, that newly-naturalized citizens must understand exactly what they are saying when they pledge allegiance to this country and to what it stands for. The commissioners determined that the oath needed to be comprehensible in order to be meaningful and solemn. To ensure that the oath conveyed the core meaning of becoming an American citizen, they asked Commissioner Richard Estrada, an eloquent writer and at the time a journalist for the Dallas Morning News, to draft a new oath.

Generally, consensus was not easily achieved by this very diverse group of nine commissioners. A unanimous recommendation, based on a proposal by Commissioner Estrada, one of the most conservative members of the Commission, was a real challenge. But in this case, the Republican appointed by Senator Simpson of Wyoming did all of his persuading through lucid and eloquent language. For all nine commissioners, the recommended oath delivered the solemnity and meaning of the extraordinary occasion of becoming an American citizen in a clear and fluent fashion.

In recommending this new oath, the Commission made two important determinations: first, they found that Congress had fulfilled its legislative duties well in setting forth the five required elements of the oath. Second, they recognized that language is a living expression of culture that grows and evolves; that the American language had evolved considerably since the language of the current oath started developing in the 18th Century and that from time to time, the Executive Branch should update the language so that those naturalizing understand and appreciate the solemnity and meaning of becoming an American citizen.

From the Commission's point of view, then, H.R. 3191, which would codify the current regulatory oath, should not be enacted for two important reasons: first, as I just explained, clear language is needed to make the oath solemn and meaningful. H.R. 3191 would prevent this needed reform from taking place. Second, Congress has duly exercised its legislative responsibility by setting forth the required elements of the oath and has rightfully determined, until now, that the Executive Branch is best suited to establish the specific language of the oath that incorporates all the required elements.

In its wisdom, Congress has already recognized that the difficult process of legislative change should not be imposed in this area by specifying the language of the oath in statute. By setting out the language of the oath in statute, H.R. 3191 would make it considerably more difficult for future generations to ensure that the naturalization oath is clear, solemn and meaningful.

In contrast, I know that the Commission would be pleased that Director Aguirre of the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services has taken their recommendation to heart and hopes to do precisely what the Commission intended: create a clear, solemn and meaningful oath for the new citizens today. I have no doubt that the commissioners would unanimously support him in his endeavor, particularly if a new oath reflects the eloquence of Commissioner Estrada's lucid words.

Members of the Committee, thank you for considering my testimony today. [The prepared statement of Mr. Schoenholtz follows:]

PREPARED STATEMENT OF ANDREW I. SCHOENHOLTZ Comprehensible, solemn, and meaningful. That is what the naturalization oath of the United States should be, declared the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform in 1997 after considered reflection. As the former Deputy Director of that Commission, I am pleased to explain to you why the Commission reached that conclusion and proposed a new oath.

First, a word on this Commission. Congress established and funded this body for a period of five years (1992-1997) to study and make recommendations on the reform of our immigration laws and policies where needed. The Commission consisted of 9 members: four appointed by the Senate (two Republicans and two Democrats), four appointed by the House (two Republicans and two Democrats), and the Chair appointed by the President. Former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan chaired the Commission until her death in 1996, when former Education Secretary and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Shirley M. Hufstedler became chair.

Importantly, the Commission worked by consensus. Most decisions were unanimous. The decision to recommend a new oath was agreed to by all nine Commissioners.

With respect to the naturalization oath, the Commission first examined the current law, which has remained unchanged since enactment in 1952. The statute requires that the oath contain five elements:

(1) support for the Constitution; (2) renunciation of prior allegiance; (3) defense of the Constitution and the laws of the United States against all

enemies, foreign and domestic; (4) true faith and allegiance to the Constitutions and laws; and (5) a commitment to bear arms or perform noncombatant service when required

by law. The Commission determined that the statute continued to serve the national interest of the United States and did not need any change.

The Commission then carefully examined the form of the oath that the Executive branch established pursuant to the statute in Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 337.1:

“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 eva

sion; so help me God.” The Commissioners found that form wanting, particularly in terms of clarity. They doubted that most people understood the dated language of “abjure” and “potentate," the archaic form, and the convoluted grammar of the existing oath. They believed, however, that newly naturalized citizens must understand exactly what they are saying when they pledge allegiance to this country and what it stands for. The Commissioners determined that the oath needed to be comprehensible in order to be meaningful and solemn. To ensure that the oath conveyed the core meaning of becoming an American citizen, they asked Commissioner Richard Estrada, an eloquent writer and at the time a journalist for the Dallas Morning News, to draft a new oath.

Generally, consensus was not easily achieved by this very diverse group of nine Commissioners. A unanimous recommendation based on a proposal by Commissioner Estrada, one of the most conservative members of the Commission, was a real challenge. But in this case, the Republican appointed by Senator Simpson of Wyoming did all his persuading through lucid and eloquent language. For all nine commissioners, the recommended oath delivered the solemnity and meaning of the extraordinary occasion of becoming an American citizen in a clear and fluent fashion:

“Solemnly, freely, and without any mental reservation, I hereby renounce under oath all former political allegiances. My sole political fidelity and allegiance from this day forward is to the United States of America. I pledge to support and respect its Constitution and laws. Where and if lawfully required, I further commit myself to defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic, either

by military or civilian service. This I do solemnly swear, so help me God.” In recommending this new oath, the Commission made two important determinations. First, they found that Congress had fulfilled its legislative duties well in setting forth the five required elements of the oath. Second, they recognized that language is a living expression of culture that grows and evolves, the American language had evolved considerably since the language of the current oath started developing in the 18th century, and from time to time the Executive branch should update the language so that those naturalizing understand and appreciate the solemnity and meaning of becoming an American citizen.

From the Commission point of view, then, H.R. 3191, which would codify the current regulatory path, should not be enacted for two important reasons. First, as I just explained, clear language is needed to make the oath solemn and meaningful. H.R. 3191 would prevent this needed reform from taking place. Second, Congress has duly exercised its legislative responsibility by setting forth the required elements of the oath and has rightfully determined until now that the Executive branch is best suited to establish the specific language of the oath that incorporates all the required elements. In its wisdom, Congress has already recognized that the difficult process of legislative change should not be imposed in this area by specifying the language of the oath in statute. By setting out the language in statute, H.R. 3191 would make it considerably more difficult for future generations to ensure that the naturalization oath is clear, solemn, and meaningful.

In contrast, I know that the Commission would be pleased that Director Aguirre at the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services has taken their recommendation to heart and hopes to do precisely what the Commission recommended: create a clear, solemn and meaningful oath for the new citizens of today. I have no doubt that the Commissioners would unanimously support him in this endeavor-particularly if a new oath reflects the eloquence of Commissioner Estrada's lucid words.

Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for considering my testimony today. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have at this time.

Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Dr. Schoenholtz.

We will now turn to questions. Representative Ryun, do you believe that any of the language of the oath as it is today is archaic and should be more modern?

Mr. RYUN. Mr. Chairman, some of the words are not widely-used; at the same time, if there is a way of modernizing it without compromising the intent, you know, I am not opposed to that. H.R. 3191 does not preclude being able to modernize in some way. I think one thing that I want to keep with the intent here is that, you know, some of the words are a little difficult. However, what they do is they cause the immigrant working through this to pause and realize the seriousness of what they're doing. If there's something we can do without compromising the intent, then yes, I think that is substantially fine. That is what the intent of the bill is.

Mr. HOSTETTLER. Do you believe that the five principles of citizenship embodied in the oath are as meaningful today as they were when Congress wrote them?

Mr. RYUN. They are meaningful if not more meaningful as a result of the things that have happened in recent time.

Mr. HOSTETTLER. Very good.

Mr. Aguilar, it was not Citizenship and Immigration Services' intent, was it, to imply in the proposed oath of last year that the only duty that naturalized citizens have to defend the Constitution and laws of the United States is by being consented to being drafted and not a lifelong obligation to uphold the principles of our republic in everything that they do, was it?

Mr. AGUILAR. No, not at all.

Mr. HOSTETTLER. Your microphone, if you could—that is all right.

Mr. AGUILAR. No, not at all, and I should clarify that at this point, we are currently working on new language that is considerably different from the one that was circulated last year, and the fundamental thing that we are looking for here is that we, of course, include the five components that are required by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

But at the same time, because taking the oath is a legal action, we want to make sure that people taking the oath understand clearly what they are swearing allegiance to. So we definitely, and I agree with the Congressman, we want to strengthen the language. He mentioned, for example, that we should recognize all the geopolitical threats that our country recognizes right now. I think that is appropriate. Perhaps instead of mentioning all of the different principates, potentates or sovereign entities and potentates, I guess could be understood as a terrorist group, but I think we could simplify that and use terminology, for example, like foreign state and power. Power, I think, would cover groups like al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

So I think there is room here to work, but we have to make sure, because that is the mandate from Congress, that we meet those five requirements. And that, we are going to make sure that we meet. But at the same time, we want to make sure that we include comments from the public, from citizens and obviously from Congress.

Mr. HOSTETTLER. And with regard to the five requirements in law, I see a nuance change in the proposed language where the requirement in statute explicitly says that an oath must include the mention of bearing arms on behalf of the United States when required by law. And that does not differentiate between military service and, say, the context of the second amendment to the Constitution regarding civilian keeping and bearing of arms. And so, the original oath, the current oath, does explicitly refer to bearing arms and does not make a differentiation between who bears arms, but in the proposed oath by the Bureau, it says, "where and if lawfully required, I further commit myself to defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, either by military noncombatant or civilian service."

And because it does not speak explicitly to the point made in statute with regard to bearing arms, and because it explicitly does mention military service in relationship to noncombatant or civilian service, there is, to me, once again a nuance that we may be changing the notion that civilians who are not under military control may be required, if there is an assault on the homeland, to bear arms. And it seems to me that the explicit mention of that in statute as it is today is once again harkening back to our War for Independence and the second amendment.

Can you speak to that?

Mr. AGUILAR. Absolutely, and let me say that I agree with you wholeheartedly. In the language that we are working on right now, we are actually addressing that issue. And right now, we believe that the principle of bearing arms should be included in the oath.

Mr. HOSTETTLER. For nonmilitary citizens?

Mr. AGUILAR. So it is understood as it is right now in the current oath.

Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you.

My time is up, and our time may be up. And since our time is not up, please continue with what you were mentioning.

Mr. AGUILAR. Right, so it would basically make the point that the current oath makes now, and if I can just find the languageexactly, make the point that it says right now: I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law. We believe that we should keep that concept as we are working on new language that that concept should be included for civilian individuals.

Mr. HOSTETTLER. Citizens.
Mr. AGUILAR. Citizens, yes.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Very good.

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