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It was certainly not meant to suggest that Congress is not capable of doing this; Congress is. But the Congressional process would also make it not only difficult now, but in the future to effect such change, whereas, I think the procedures, through the APA-we are talking about notice and comment rulemaking—that have traditionally allowed all of the stakeholders to play a role in this process, and I have seen it done very well; I work with a lot of people in the field, and I am sure that the talented people at this table and others will be coming forth to make excellent suggestions on how to develop the new oath. So I believe they are also capable of doing this.

Thank you.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you.

The Chair now recognizes the gentlelady from Tennessee, Mrs. Blackburn, for 5 minutes.

Mrs. BLACKBURN. Thank you all, and thanks for letting me step back in the hearing, Mr. Chairman. We had a markup next door in Government Reform, so I had to get over there for a few moments.

Dr. Schoenholtz and Mr. Aguilar, I would like to direct my first question to you and have a quick answer from each of you.

What is your stated goal, very concise stated goal and reason for changing the oath? Mr. Aguilar, if you will go first.

Mr. AGUILAR. Our main goal is to make sure that the Oath of Allegiance is comprehensible and that it follows the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act but that people understand—this is a homeland security interest—that people understand what they are swearing allegiance to.

Mrs. BLACKBURN. Okay; Dr. Schoenholtz?

Mr. SCHOENHOLTZ. Congresswoman, the Commission's intent was to ensure that the oath is comprehensible, solemn and meaningful. To do that, they felt that the five elements needed to be placed in a language that our modern American understands when they take a very serious oath.

Mrs. BLACKBURN. Okay; thank you both. I appreciate hearing your responses to that and knowing that that is your stated goal in the outcome, and I would like-other than that, that was the only other question that I had; I wanted to hear from each of you what your purpose, what you were desiring to achieve out of this actually was.

Other than that, Mr. Ryun, I want to thank you for bringing your bill. I think that it is a worthy bill, and I look forward to hearing more from you as we go forward on the legislation.

Mr. RYUN. If I may respond.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Yes, please do.
Mr. RYUN. First of all, thank you for your question.

I would just like to respond to your question in the sense that I think in some respects, we are all headed toward the same objective: comprehensible, sound, meaningful. But the forum in which that should take place is what I think this debate is partly about. I believe it should be done within the oversight of Congress as opposed to an outside body. Keeping the intent is very, very important, and, you know, the five principles, again, staying within this body I think is significant, and that is why this is being offered.

Mrs. BLACKBURN. Thank you, sir.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentlelady.

I want to once again thank the panel of Members, the panel for coming out today and discussing this very important issue. Your insight and your input is invaluable in this discussion of a very important part of American life for those who have come here and have worked diligently to become citizens. So I want to thank you for that and remind Members of the Subcommittee that all Members will have seven legislative days to add to the record, to revise and extend their remarks.

Yes, the gentlelady from Texas is recognized for a question.

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Yes, I wanted to ask a question. Let me--is the-can I just ask Dr. Schoenholtz again, I want to pursue this statutory question. The present oath is regulatory, and it has been regulatory for, now, a good century, I guess.

Mr. SCHOENHOLTZ. 1952 was the last time that the regulation was—that the oath was put into the regulation.

Ms. JACKSON LEE. But we've had an oath since early 19—et cetera.

Mr. SCHOENHOLTZ. Going back a long, long, time, now, to the beginning.

Ms. JACKSON LEE. And we have managed to frame it as the culture has changed, America has changed. Again, let me just focus on the fact that we have had 9/11 and the fact that we have a new wave of immigrants. Does this in any way suggest some discriminatory approach because we have a new wave of immigrants coming from different regions, that we would want to put this oath in statutory language?

Mr. SCHOENHOLTZ. Congresswoman Jackson Lee, I don't believe that those changes suggest that the naturalization oath needs to be placed into statutory language. If you are suggesting that Congress is going to be more protective of our national security interests than any other branch of our Government, I fully believe that every branch of our Government will do its utmost to protect the American people. And I believe that the Executive Branch is fully committed to this. We now have the Department of Homeland Security that will exercise this regulatory duty, as the inheritor of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

So I am confident that they will be able to carry this out well, and I don't see any added benefit, in that sense, from Congress taking this on.

Ms. JACKSON LEE. And what I would simply say in the course of accessing citizenship or becoming a citizen, we have the same stringent requirements that would weed out those seeking citizenship to do us harm, seeking it under fraud, fraudulent purposes. And so, by the time that you reach the oath, is it my understanding that you have been completely vetted, and you are now ready, simply, to make your commitment to the United States? The oath does not serve as a weeding-out document; it is simply a document that confirms your willingness to accept the responsibilities of citizenship; is that not clear?

Mr. SCHOENHOLTZ. That is absolutely correct.

Ms. JACKSON LEE. And so, statutory intervention might bog down that already-vetted process rather than enhance it.

Mr. SCHOENHOLTZ. That is true.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. That is a possibility?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank you.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentlelady.

Once again, the Chair reminds the Members that we have seven legislative days to revise and extend for the record.

The business of this Subcommittee being completed, we are adjourned.

[Whereupon, at 11:10 a.m., the Subcommittee adjourned.]




IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS Taking an oath is a critical legal step in becoming a naturalized citizen. The words of the Oath of Allegiance convey the core meaning of becoming an American citizen. The Naturalization Act of 1790 and other early statutes required new citizens to swear an oath containing the elements of the current language, but prior to 1906, naturalization courts had free rein in determining the actual words. As there were approximately 5,000 such courts, there was wide variation in the language used.

In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt's Commission on Naturalization recommended that naturalization laws be rewritten to be more effective and consistent. The Basic Naturalization Act of 1906 implemented most of the Roosevelt Commission's recommendations, but it did not mandate a specific text for the oath.

Regulations were not enacted until 1929. The Nationality Act of 1940 provided that the elements of the naturalization oath prescribed by regulation must all be present in the spoken oath to make it a binding act.

The 1952 McCarren-Walter Act required an oath with five specific elements, but it left the actual words to regulation and the discretion of the judges who administer the oath. The following elements were specified: (1) Support for the Constitution; (2) renunciation of prior allegiance; (3) defense of the Constitution against all foreign and domestic enemies; (4) true faith and allegiance; and (5) to bear arms or noncombatant service as required.

In 1997, the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform determined that Congress had fulfilled its legislative duties by establishing the five required elements. The Commission also determined that the language of the oath is a living expression of culture that grows and evolves. It concluded that the language of the oath should be updated. It unanimously recommended a new Naturalization Oath written by Richard Estrada. In late 2003, the Bush Administration announced its intention to adopt the following, slightly modified version of the Estrada oath:

Solemnly, freely, and without mental reservation, I hereby renounce under oath all allegiance to any foreign state. My fidelity and allegiance from this day forward is to the United States of America. I pledge to support, honor, and be loyal to the United States, its Constitution, and its laws. 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. This I do solemnly swear, so help me God.

This proposal met with resistance. For instance, former Attorney General Edwin Meese objected that the proposed language only asks new citizens to renounce their allegiance to a “foreign state.” He argued that, “In an era of international but nonstate specific terrorism, this singular reference is not sufficient. At the very least, an additional reference to 'sovereignty or other appropriate term should be maintained.” The Citizenship Roundtable objected to dropping the phrase, “I will bear arms on behalf of the United States,” which it felt should clearly be understandable by anyone who wishes to become an American citizen.

I welcome such debate over the text of our naturalization oath, but the need to resolve such issues does not require Congressional intervention or justify making the oath a statutory provision.

I agree with the Ů.S. Commission on Immigration Reform that the language of the oath should be updated to make it meaningful to the people being naturalized. The current oath's dated language, archaic form, and convoluted grammar prevent it from being widely understood by new citizens. On the other hand, I also agree with my colleague, Congressman Jim Ryun, that changes should not be made hast

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