Rubio’s English-Only Requirement Could Prevent Over Four Million From Becoming New Americans

(Credit: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Newscom)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced this week that he would submit a stringent “English-only” amendment to the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill that would require immigrants to be proficient in English and to pass a civics test before they can receive a green card. Rubio’s amendment could prevent 4.84 million undocumented immigrants who do not speak English well from ever getting on a pathway to citizenship.

The current immigration bill requires undocumented individuals to enroll in English classes, before they apply for a green card. Rubio’s amendment, however, would enforce such individuals to be proficient in English before they can ever apply.

This could create a huge obstacle for immigrants to overcome in order to get on the path to citizenship. Though there is already a English as a Second Language (ESL) education system funded by the government, it’s unlikely there would be enough classes to accommodate a huge influx of millions of immigrants, and there is not enough money to create more classes. One alternative would be for such individuals to shoulder the expensive cost of private English tutoring. But that might be difficult given that such families have a median income of $36,000.

If Rubio’s amendment is passed, it could delay the pathway to citizenship. Setting a mandatory English barrier would unnecessarily extend the time it takes for immigrants to receive a green card and thus, the time it takes for them to economically contribute more as legalized immigrants.

Although Republicans have long questioned how to win back the Hispanic vote, the party has also had a long history of trying to force English-only provisions, which is a severe disincentive for immigrants. The discriminatory practice adversely affects first-generation immigrants, and becomes wholly unnecessary for second-generation immigrants who are generally English-proficient.