Congressman Nadler Reintroduces "Senior Citizenship Act"

Mar 11, 2001 Issues: Civil Liberties

BROOKLYN, NY – Acknowledging that becoming a citizen of the United States often is needlessly difficult for many older immigrants, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) announced the reintroduction of  “The Senior Citizenship Act” this weekend at a press conference at Synagogue F.R.E.E. in Brooklyn, NY.

Current law exempts people over age 50 who have lived in the United States for at least 20 years and people over age 55 who have lived in the United States for at least 15 years from the English literacy requirement. However, this lengthy waiting period is often too great for older immigrants who have arrived more recently and speak little or no English.  In addition, in some cases, especially for individuals over 75 years old, it can be extremely difficult to memorize facts and pass civics and history exams.

“I believe that most immigrants come to this country seeking a better life, and throughout history, our immigrant population has added much richness to our culture, and has been fiercely loyal to this country,” said Rep. Nadler.  “Older immigrants are no exception.”

“The Senior Citizenship Act” would add a third exemption from the English literacy exam; amending the requirement to say that any individual who is at least 65 years old and has been living in the U.S. for five years after their admission for permanent residence would not have to take the English literacy exam.  They would still be required to pass the civics and history exams, but this would be done in their native language.  In addition, those immigrants who are over 75 years old would be exempt from the history and civics requirement altogether.   However, those immigrants who would be exempt from some or all exams under this legislation would still be required to fulfill other requirements of citizenship, such as renouncing any foreign allegiance, and would be required to take the oath of allegiance to this nation, and its Constitution.

“I believe that our main concern with older immigrants should not be whether they can memorize who was President during the Civil War, or if they can understand the nuances of the English language,” said Rep. Nadler.  “Our concern should be whether immigrants, in seeking a better life, are ready and prepared to accept the laws and system of government we live under, as well as live their lives with the same high character that so many of this nation’s immigrants have shown in the past.”

Rep. Nadler originally introduced the “Senior Citizenship Act” on September 17, 2000 – which was “Citizenship Day” in the United States.  That day commemorates the day that the U.S. Constitution was signed, and the first immigrants to the New World became citizens.  That legislation had 32 co-sponsors.

Rep. Nadler has served in Congress since 1992.  He represents the 8th Congressional District of New York, which includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.