by Jason Hopkins
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said that learning English would be a requirement to legalize the country’s illegal immigrant population, but that detail is not included on his official immigration platform.
Speaking Sunday at a campaign event in Iowa, Biden told an audience that “in a matter of months,” he would create a pathway to citizenship for the county’s estimated 11 million illegal aliens. The former vice president said, among other conditions, that they would have to learn English as part of their naturalization process.
“In matter of months, if I’m elected president, a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented. Like every other person who’s come here, they have to pass — they have to learn how to speak English, they have to demonstrate they pay their taxes, just go down the line,” Biden said Sunday.
However, the former vice president unveiled a comprehensive immigration agenda in December and included in his support for a pathway to citizenship for the country’s illegal alien population. He listed the conditions for those looking to become naturalized citizens.
Joe Biden will work with Congress to pass legislation that:
Creates a roadmap to citizenship for the nearly 11 million people who have been living in and strengthening our country for years. These are our mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. They are our neighbors, co-workers, and members of our congregations and Little League teams. They contribute in countless ways to our communities, workforce, and economy. In 2015, the IRS collected $23.6 billion from 4.4 million workers without Social Security numbers–many of whom were undocumented. Biden will aggressively advocate for legislation that creates a clear roadmap to legal status and citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who register, are up-to-date on their taxes, and have passed a background check.
“Biden will aggressively advocate for legislation that creates a clear roadmap to legal status and citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who register, are up-to-date on their taxes, and have passed a background check,” reads a section of Biden’s immigration plan. The section notably does not include a provision regarding English proficiency.
A spokesperson for the campaign addressed the noted discrepancy.
“The verbal portion of the naturalization exam is administered in English (except for in very select cases) and our plan offers English language education support,” a Biden campaign official said when approached by Politico.
Biden — who has already established himself as more moderate on immigration issues compared to many of his primary adversaries — attracted criticism from the left for the proposal on English proficiency.
“It’s time we dispel the notion of good and bad immigrants based on their ability to speak English,” said Sawyer Hackett, a communications director for Julian Castro’s now-defunct presidential campaign, Monday.
Castro dropped out of the presidential contest earlier in January after failing to gain traction in the polls. The former San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development secretary was credited with having pushed other Democratic presidential candidates further to the left on immigration issues.
“The way forward on immigration — and the way to beat Trump — is through inclusive, people-first policy. Emphasizing English as a prerequisite is an outdated idea that all of our candidates should be beyond,” Indivisible Guide, a Washington, D.C.,-based progressive organization, said Monday in response to Biden’s comments.
This is not the first time Biden has been attacked from the left for his comparatively moderate immigration positions.
The former vice president has attracted protests from immigration-rights activists who demand he apologize for the roughly three million deportations that took place during the Obama administration, sparred with a voter concerned about his deportation record, and saw his top Latina adviser quit his campaign over a purported lack of empathy in his immigration rhetoric.
Biden, nevertheless, has pledged to end some of President Donald Trump’s most effective border programs, such as the Remain in Mexico directive. The Democratic front-runner has also pledged to reinstate DACA, raise the current refugee cap to nearly seven times the current limit, and reprioritize deportations.
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Jason Hopkins is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Joe Biden” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.