False: Obama Claims Immigration Bill Requires Illegals to Learn English

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama claimed the Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration bill would require illegal immigrants to learn English to earn their citizenship.

"This bill would provide a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are already in this country illegally--a pathway that includes passing a background check, learning English, paying taxes and a penalty, and then going to the back of the line behind everyone who's playing by the rules and trying to come here legally,” Obama said.

While that claim would quell a lot of criticism of the bill if it were true, it simply is not accurate.

As Breitbart News has previously reported, when illegal immigrants apply for “registered provisional immigrant” status under the provisions of the bill, the first step in legalization, they do not need to demonstrate that they can speak English. When they apply for renewal of their RPI status, they still do not need to prove they can speak English.

Only when illegal immigrants apply for their “legal permanent resident” status, or green card, would they be required to demonstrate their ability to speak English or prove that they are currently enrolled in a course “to achieve an understanding of English and knowledge and understanding” of civics.

The requirement that immigrants must learn English is not new to this legislation, either. It is already part of a requirement in existing law, section 312 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. In fact, the immigration bill weakens the current law by allowing illegal immigrants to simply claim they are enrolled in a course to learn English rather than actually requiring them to know it.

Interestingly enough, President Obama is not the first to inaccurately suggest the bill does requires illegal immigrants learn the English language. Republican political consultant Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform teamed up with the George Soros-funded National Immigration Forum’s Action Fund, as well as the Partnership for a New American Economy, to commission a poll that argued the same thing.

The polling questions, as Breitbart News reported at the time, were designed to make it appear as though the bill was tougher on illegal immigration than it really is. One of the many points Norquist and his allies on the political left made that was inaccurate was the same claim that Obama just made: that illegal immigrants must learn English. 

Cesar Conda, the chief of staff to Gang of Eight member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), made the same inaccurate claim as the bill was being rolled out. Conda tweeted that “undocumented aliens,” under this bill, “must pay fines, pay taxes, learn English, no welfare, go to back of line.”

President Obama’s other claims about the bill strain credulity as well. His argument that illegal immigrants would need to “pay taxes” has been promoted by the bill’s proponents as well, but that claim has since been thoroughly debunked by The Daily Caller’s Mickey Kaus, who called it a “fraud.”

Kaus noted that “it looks as if illegal immigrants will only have to pay back taxes if the IRS has already moved to assess them for it--which would be why the text of the bill (pages 68-69) says they only have to pay  ‘Federal income taxes assessed in accordance with section 6203 of the Internal Revenue Code,’ which is the section on assessments." 

"What about income taxes that weren’t paid or assessed because illegal immigrants were working off the books, or using fraudulent Social Security numbers?" he asked. "No worries. The Gang of 8 will not collect them.”

As for the claim from President Obama that illegal immigrants would need to pay “a penalty,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) put that assertion in perspective on the Senate floor Friday morning in responding to an identical claim by Karl Rove. “Mr. Rove says they have to pay a $1,000 fine over 6 years,” Sessions said. “What is that--$170 dollars a year, $15, $12 a month? So this is the punishment?" 

"You pay $12 a month worth of fines, which allows you not to have to go home even though you entered the country illegally, did not wait your turn, and you are guaranteed a path to citizenship," he explained. "Then at the end you have to pay another $1,000 some 10, 13 years later. So this is the punishment in the legislation.”

Obama’s claim that illegal immigrants would have to go “to the back of the line behind everyone who's playing by the rules and trying to come here legally” is a stretch at best as well. First off, millions of illegal immigrants--both those who are described as DREAMers and agriculture workers--would have access to green cards and citizenship within just five years of the bill’s passage. 

The bill’s passage would also immediately legalize all illegal immigrants in the country, allowing them to work and have access to state and local welfare benefit, along with all the other benefits conferred on those in the United States legally. Meanwhile, those who have followed the rules must wait, as per usual, in their home countries for their applications to be processed.


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