Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A few words by Michael Chertoff Part V



Finally, we have continued to take the necessary actions to assimilate new Americans into the rich tapestry of American culture and society.

Part of this effort involves revising the naturalization test for U.S. citizenship to create a testing process that is more standardized, fair, and meaningful. The new test design, which USCIS announced last fall and expects to implement in October of this year, emphasizes fundamental concepts of American democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. It is designed to encourage citizenship applicants to learn and identify the basic values we all share as Americans, rather than simply memorize a set of facts.

Of course, knowledge of English is one of the most important components of assimilation. By learning English, immigrants are able to communicate and interact with their fellow Americans. It is the first step to full integration. Assimilation does not mean losing cultural identity or diversity. It means learning English and embracing the common civic values that bring us together as Americans and adopting a shared sense of those values.

To promote assimilation, USCIS' Office of Citizenship provides a number of educational products, resources, and training opportunities for community and faith-based organizations, civic organizations, adult educators, and volunteers who work with immigrants. This includes hosting regional training seminars. Adult educators, volunteers, and other organizations also use USCIS' publications and videos to teach English as a Second Language and American history, civics, and the naturalization process to immigrant students. Several new educational resources are initiatives of the Task Force on New Americans.

USCIS and USA Freedom Corps' New Americans Project are also currently engaged in a public service and educational campaign to promote volunteer opportunities among both U.S. citizens and immigrants to help newcomers adjust to life in the United States. The project also offers opportunities for immigrants to get involved in their communities through volunteer service.


Immigration is an issue that goes to the very core of what it means to be an American. We must continue to welcome new generations of immigrants to the United States to pursue their dreams and enrich our civic culture and our society. But, as we also know, immigration has become an issue that is inextricably linked to our national security.

What I hope is clear from my testimony today is that we take our commitments with respect to immigration seriously and that we have made a great deal of progress over the past year. We have set clear goals and established strategies and timelines to meet those goals using the resources and authorities currently available to us.

As I stated at the beginning of my testimony, however, an enforcement-only approach will not address the full breadth of the nation's immigration challenges over the long term. Only congressional action will achieve that goal.

We stand ready to work with Congress this year to build on our success at the border and in the interior and to advance reforms that will create the necessary temporary worker programs and pathways to citizenship for those already in our country. Taking these actions will remove pressure from the border and allow our Department to continue its focus on protecting our nation against dangerous people while making progress across all areas of our mission. I look forward to working with this Committee to achieve these very important objectives for our nation.

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