The Florida senator pushing for an immigration reform now says people should learn English before receiving a permanent resident status.
Speaking in Washington, Sen. Marco Rubio said: “When you apply for that green card after the tenyear period and more has expired, you’re going to have to prove that you’re proficient in English because I think assimilation is important.”
Last week, Sen. Rubio amended the bill he helped craft. Under current law, English proficiency is only required for citizenship but this would change that if the immigration reform bill is passed.
The senator’s actions are being criticized by undocumented immigrant rights organizations like We Count in South Florida.
“I think Senator Rubio is trying to appear tough on immigrants because he's trying to please right-wing anti-immigrant elements in his party and you can't do both things,” says Jonathan Fried, executive director of We Count.
“He needs to strongly defend the immigration bill he participated in writing and the values and principals in that,” Fried adds.
Others say this tweak might prevent many people from getting on a path to citizenship.
Arturo Jimenez, who had trouble speaking in English, did push himself to tell NBC 6 that he agrees with the measure.
“People live in America they have to learn English,” he says, explaining that he is working on his English.
Bill Fairnington, who was born in the U.S., says he understands how some people might find it difficult to become proficient in English.
“That’s the problem if you have a stringent requirement,” he says. “Some people for the lack of a better term don't need to speak English; I mean I go in here, (and ask) got room for one gringo,” Fairnington says referring to Versailles.