U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio wants to make sure newly legalized immigrants can speak English. On Tuesday, he’s introducing an amendment to his own immigration bill to ensure those applying for permanent residency are proficient in English.
"You cannot flourish in our economy -- you cannot flourish in our country -- if you are not proficient in English," he said. "We're going to require that."
Under current law, English proficiency is only required for citizenship, not permanent residency.
The requirement will have an interesting effect in Rubio's home of Miami-Dade County, a Spanish-speaking bastion where many immigrants legal and illegal can get by for years without having to speak English.
Senators began debate this week on the massive immigration overhaul that Rubio helped write. But he said the current version of the legislation has a loophole that makes it easy to dodge the English requirement. His amendment strikes a provision in the legislation that stipulates the English proficiency requirement can simply be met by being enrolled in an English course.
If passed, those applying for legal status would be required demonstrate, possibly by a test, “ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage.”
Rubio said last week that the legislation still does not have the support of 60 Senate members needed to pass. He said Republican colleagues have told him the bill needs stronger border security to win their support.
The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on a motion to proceed with the immigration bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said members will have three weeks to offer and debate amendments. He expects a vote in the Senate by July 4.