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[Congressional Record: May 18, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S4211-S4213]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr18my00-141]                         



 
               HMONG VETERANS' NATURALIZATION ACT OF 2000

  Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate 
proceed to the immediate consideration of Calendar No. 562, H.R. 371.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the bill by title.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       A bill (H.R. 371) to facilitate the naturalization of 
     aliens who served with special guerrilla units or irregular 
     forces in Laos.

  There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the bill, 
which had been reported from the Committee on the Judiciary, with 
amendments, as follows:
  (The parts of the bill intended to be stricken are shown in boldface 
brackets and the parts of the bill intended to be inserted are shown in 
italic.)

                                H.R. 371

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Hmong Veterans' 
     Naturalization Act of 2000''.

     SEC. 2. EXEMPTION FROM ENGLISH LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT FOR 
                   CERTAIN ALIENS WHO SERVED WITH SPECIAL 
                   GUERRILLA UNITS OR IRREGULAR FORCES IN LAOS.

       The requirement of paragraph (1) of section 312(a) of the 
     Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1423(a)(1)) shall 
     not apply to the naturalization of any person--
       (1) who--
       (A) was admitted into the United States as a refugee from 
     Laos pursuant to section 207 of the Immigration and 
     Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1157); and
       (B) served with a special guerrilla unit, or irregular 
     forces, operating from a base in Laos in support of the 
     United States military at any time during the period 
     beginning February 28, 1961, and ending September 18, 1978; 
     or
       (2) who--
       (A) satisfies the requirement of paragraph (1)(A); and
       (B) was the spouse of a person described in paragraph (1) 
     on the day on which such described person applied for 
     admission into the United States as a refugee.

     SEC. 3. SPECIAL CONSIDERATION CONCERNING CIVICS REQUIREMENT 
                   FOR CERTAIN ALIENS WHO SERVED WITH SPECIAL 
                   GUERRILLA UNITS OR IRREGULAR FORCES IN LAOS.

       The Attorney General shall provide for special 
     consideration, as determined by the Attorney General, 
     concerning the requirement of paragraph (2) of section 312(a) 
     of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1423(a)(2)) 
     with respect to the naturalization of any person described in 
     paragraph (1) or (2) of section 2 of this Act.

     SEC. 4. DOCUMENTATION OF QUALIFYING SERVICE.

       A person seeking an exemption under section 2 or special 
     consideration under section 3 shall submit to the Attorney 
     General documentation of their, or their spouse's, service 
     with a special guerrilla unit, or irregular forces, described 
     in section 2(1)(B), in the form of--
       (1) original documents;
       (2) an affidavit of the serving person's superior officer;
       (3) two affidavits from other individuals who also were 
     serving with such a special guerrilla unit, or irregular 
     forces, and who personally knew of the person's service; or
       (4) other appropriate proof.

     SEC. 5. DETERMINATION OF ELIGIBILITY FOR EXEMPTION AND 
                   SPECIAL CONSIDERATION.

       In determining a person's eligibility for an exemption 
     under section 2 or special consideration under section 3, the 
     Attorney General--
       (1) shall review the refugee processing documentation for 
     the person, or, in an appropriate case, for the person and 
     the person's spouse, to verify that the requirements of 
     section 2 relating to refugee applications and admissions 
     have been satisfied;
       (2) shall consider the documentation submitted by the 
     person under section 4;
       [(3) shall request an advisory opinion from the Secretary 
     of Defense regarding the person's, or their spouse's, service 
     in a special guerrilla unit, or irregular forces, described 
     in section 2(1)(B) and shall take into account that opinion; 
     and
       [(4) may consider any certification prepared by the 
     organization known as ``Lao Veterans of America, Inc.'', or 
     any similar organization maintaining records with respect to 
     Hmong veterans or their families.]
       (3) may request an advisory opinion from the Secretary of 
     Defense regarding the person's, or their spouse's, service in 
     a special guerrilla unit, or irregular forces, described in 
     section 2(1)(B); and
       (4) may consider any documentation provided by 
     organizations maintaining records with respect to Hmong 
     veterans or their families.
       The Secretary of Defense shall provide any opinion 
     requested under paragraph (3) to the extent practicable, and 
     the Attorney General shall take into account any opinion that 
     the Secretary of Defense is able to provide.

     SEC. 6. DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION AND PAYMENT OF FEES.

       This Act shall apply to a person only if the person's 
     application for naturalization is filed, as provided in 
     section 334 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 
     1445), with appropriate fees not later than 18 months after 
     the date of the enactment of this Act.

     SEC. 7. LIMITATION ON NUMBER OF BENEFICIARIES.

       Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the total 
     number of aliens who may be granted an exemption under 
     section 2 or special consideration under section 3, or both, 
     may not exceed 45,000.

  Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I thank my distinguished colleague from 
Wisconsin, Senator Feingold, as well as my distinguished colleagues 
Senators Wellstone, Grams, Kohl and Grassley, for their leadership and 
effort on behalf of the Hmong veterans and in support of this 
legislation. Also, I

[[Page S4212]]

would like to make special mention of Senator Kohl's critical role in 
bringing all parties together and in negotiating this compromise. 
Senator Kohl's role truly was pivotal.
  With respect to Senator Grams, I would like to point out my 
appreciation for all that he has done to assist the Hmong veterans and 
their families in Minnesota.
  I also appreciate very much the efforts of the Lao Veterans of 
America with their national recognition ceremonies for the Hmong and 
Lao veterans of the U.S. Secret Army and the monument that they 
dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery.
  Mr. President, it is important to state that a negative inference 
should not be drawn from the fact that in moving this legislation 
through the Senate today, the Senate has amended the bill to eliminate 
specific mention of any one organization. In fact, the distinguished 
organization mentioned in the original House legislation was cited 
because of its role in developing, organizing and keeping records 
regarding the service of Hmong and Lao veterans who served with U.S. 
military and covert forces in Laos during the Vietnam War. It, along 
with other such organizations, may be helpful in providing input for 
the naturalization of the Hmong veterans and their families.
  Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished chairman of 
the Judiciary Committee, Senator Hatch, for his assistance in getting 
this legislation to the floor. I concur with Senator Hatch that a 
negative inference should not be drawn from the fact that the bill was 
amended to remove reference to a specific organization. Given that 
there is reason to believe that the federal government has little, if 
any, remaining records of which Lao and Hmong participated in the U.S. 
Secret Army, I think it is entirely reasonable for the Attorney General 
to consider documentation provided by the Lao Veterans of America or 
other Lao or Hmong veterans' organizations. In fact, I understand that 
the Lao Veterans of America was named in the House legislation because 
it has maintained extensive records of the Hmong and Lao veterans of 
the U.S. Secret Army.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I thank Chairman Hatch, Senator 
Feingold and Senator Kohl for their work in passing the Hmong Veterans 
Naturalization Act through the Judiciary Committee today. I am proud to 
be its sponsor in the Senate. In particular, I would like to commend 
Rep. Bruce Vento for his efforts on this legislation and his 
extraordinary courage and selfless devotion to the important cause of 
the Hmong veterans.
  I would like to affirm my colleagues' remarks and thank the Lao 
Veterans of America, the nation's largest Hmong veterans organization, 
for its leadership in helping to bring long-overdue national 
recognition to the Hmong and Lao veterans of the U.S. Secret Army, as 
well as pushing for the passage of this legislation in the House and 
Senate. Lao Veterans of America is the nation's first non-profit 
veterans organization representing Hmong and Lao veterans of the U.S. 
Secret Army. These veterans and their families served with U.S. 
military and clandestine forces in Laos during the Vietnam War. 
Starting in 1990, the group established and began maintaining the 
nation's largest repository of records relating to the Hmong and Lao 
veterans who served with U.S. clandestine and military forces.
  Mr. President, the Lao Veterans of America's second largest chapter 
is headquartered in Minnesota. I have heard from hundreds of Hmong 
Americans in support of this bill over the years. I want to thank them, 
as well as all the Hmong people from Minnesota and around the country 
who made the passage of this bill possible.
  Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I would also like to add my comments. Thank 
you Chairman Hatch for your kind words and all your help and the help 
of your staff in moving this important legislation forward. Thank you 
as well to my fellow Senator from Wisconsin and Senators Wellstone and 
Grams from Minnesota. I am pleased that we were able to work together 
to reach a compromise and help give the Hmong veterans and their 
families the chance to become citizens. The Hmong community, 
particularly the Lao Veterans of America, have worked tirelessly to 
bring us to this point. As my colleagues have mentioned, no negative 
inference should be drawn from the compromise language. Last week, I 
was proud to participate in the Lao Veterans of America National 
Recognition Ceremonies with so many Hmong veterans from Wisconsin. With 
this bill, we are attempting to repay them for their tremendous 
sacrifices and courage. I hope that we can achieve the final steps and 
send this bill to the President's desk for signature as soon as 
possible.
  Mr. LEAHY. I rise today in support of the Hmong Veterans' 
Naturalization Act of 2000, which has passed the House and deserves our 
support as well. The beneficiaries of this bill are guerrilla 
soldiers--and their spouses and widows--who were our allies in Laos 
during the Vietnam War. Many of these soldiers came to the United 
States with their families after the war and have contributed to the 
American economy through their labor and by paying taxes. Now many of 
them seek to become citizens of this country, but find it difficult to 
meet the prerequisites for naturalization due to the unique 
characteristics of their native culture.
  Until quite recently, the Hmong people had no written language. This 
lack of experience with written language has made it more difficult for 
Hmong people who have moved to the United States to learn English, 
which in turn makes it more difficult for them to obtain citizenship. 
This bill would waive the English language requirement and provide 
special consideration for the civics requirement for Hmong veterans and 
their spouses and widows. It is a small concession to make in return 
for the great sacrifices that these men made in fighting for the 
American cause in Southeast Asia.
  I would like to commend Senators Wellstone and Feingold for the 
efforts they have made to draw attention to this issue and this bill, 
and to thank Representative Vento whose persistence has made this bill 
possible. I would also note that this is a bipartisan bill that 
Senators Hagel and McCain have cosponsored. My only disappointment is 
that the majority made it impossible to report this bill from the 
Judiciary Committee last week, when we were joined at the hearing by 
many of the brave soldiers whom this bill would benefit. Instead of 
working out its concerns with the bill's sponsors in advance, the 
majority insisted upon an 11th-hour amendment, an amendment that--in 
violation of normal practice--was not distributed to members of this 
Committee. This conduct came only a week after the majority objected to 
an attempt to pass the House bill on the floor--an attempt that was 
cleared by every Senator on my side of the aisle.
  But it is better to pass this bill after a delay than not at all. I 
am grateful for the opportunity to have helped bring this bill to the 
floor today, and I look forward to the day when these brave veterans 
become American citizens. It is a privilege that they have more than 
earned.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I will take a moment to thank my 
colleagues for passing S. 890, the Hmong Veterans Naturalization Act. 
Frankly, this bill is long overdue.
  As the Senator from Minnesota, I am proud to represent the largest 
Hmong population in America. There are nearly 70,000 Hmong people 
living in the twin cities. My experience as a Senator has become so 
much greater as a result of coming to know the nobel history and rich 
culture of the Hmong people in Minnesota. I am in awe of their 
sacrifice for the American people.
  Hmong soldiers died at ten times the rate of American soldiers in the 
Vietnam War. As many as 20,000 Hmong fell on the mountains in Laos. 
Hmong soldiers were paid $3 a month and often lived off of rice alone. 
Where American pilots were sent home after a year or after their one 
hundredth mission, Hmong soldiers never stopped fighting. ``Fly till 
you die'' was what the Hmong soldiers said. And, as adults died, 
children as young as twelve were called up to take their place. In 
exchange for their service, the Hmong were given a promise of 
protection by the United States Government.
  Yet the promise made on the battlefield was abandoned. When the 
United States military fled South East Asia, the Hmong Geurillas were 
left to fight

[[Page S4213]]

alone. A trail of 100,000 refugees were left to fend for themselves. 
Many were slaughtered as they waited for evacuation planes that never 
came.
  Because America's war effort in Laos was covert, perhaps the largest 
covert action in our history, the sacrifices and service of the Hmong 
and Lao veterans is still largely untold. As a result, many of these 
brave people are still suffering from poverty, discrimination, and 
persecution.
  The legislation we passed today is a tribute to this sacrifice. It is 
a small but meaningful step in honoring and fulfilling our promise to 
the Hmong people. This legislation will simply waive the literacy 
requirement to all Hmong Veterans and their spouses to become citizens 
of the United States--a nation for which so many of them spilled their 
blood and a nation that has long ignored their unique struggle.
  The need for this legislation is acute because the Hmong had no 
written language until recently, and because so many Hmong children 
were fighting for America when they should have been in school.
  I want to thank my colleagues for their support. In particular, I 
also want to take a moment to thank and honor Congressman Bruce Vento. 
He, more than anyone in the Congress, has dedicated himself to ensure 
that Hmong and Lao veterans receive the honor and respect that has been 
so long deserved and too long delayed. I also want to thank Chairman 
Hatch, for guiding this bill through the Judiciary Committee and 
Senator Russ Feingold who, with Senator Herb Kohl, has worked so hard 
to see that this bill is passed. Mostly, I thank the Hmong people. You 
gave us your lives and your families. You are American heroes.
  Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I am very pleased that the Senate today 
will pass H.R. 371, the Hmong Veterans' Naturalization Act. I was proud 
to join my colleague from Minnesota, Senator Wellstone, as an original 
co-sponsor of S. 890, which was companion legislation to H.R. 371. I 
commend Senator Wellstone for his leadership on this issue and for his 
persistence in pressing for the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate 
to consider the bill.
  By passing this legislation today, the Senate recognizes the 
contribution of Hmong and Lao immigrants who risked their lives to 
support U.S. interests in Southeast Asia. The Senate not only 
recognizes the valor of Hmong and Lao veterans, but also helps them 
achieve their goal of citizenship.
  Mr. President, Wisconsin is home to the third largest Hmong community 
in the United States. We are proud of the Hmong veterans and their 
families who sacrificed so much for U.S. national security during the 
Vietnam War and have done so much to enrich Wisconsin and the United 
States. I have had the opportunity to meet many Lao and Hmong veterans 
and their families as I travel throughout Wisconsin. I am struck by the 
profound importance they place on becoming citizens of the United 
States. The most important thing to many of these individuals is to 
become legal citizens of the country they risked their lives to help 
and that they now call home. This bill is the least we can do to help 
repay the huge debt we owe these brave individuals
  This legislation is truly long overdue. The Hmong and Lao veterans of 
the U.S. Secret Army should not have had to suffer for so long in 
obscurity after the end of the Vietnam War. It should not have taken so 
long for the United States to finally dedicate a monument in Arlington 
National Cemetery to the Hmong and Lao veterans of the U.S. Secret 
Army, when it did so in May 1997.
  Mr. President, the monument at Arlington National Cemetery to the 
Hmong veterans contains important language for us to remember as we 
pass this legislation today in the Senate. The monument in Arlington 
Cemetery, dedicated by many of the Hmong veterans and their families 
from Wisconsin and across the United States, reads as follows:

          Dedicated to the U.S. Secret Army in Laos 1961-1973

       In memory of the Hmong and Lao combat veterans and their 
     American Advisors who served freedom's cause in Southeast 
     Asia. Their patriotic valor and loyalty in the defense of 
     liberty and democracy will never be forgotten ``You will 
     never be forgotten. (in Laotian and Hmong)--Lao Veterans of 
     America, May 15, 1997.''
  Mr. President, I am particularly proud of the Lao Veterans of America 
chapters throughout the state of Wisconsin--in Milwaukee, Green Bay, 
Madison, Wausau, Stevens Point, Sheboygan, Oshkosh, Eau Claire and 
elsewhere. They played a positive role in helping to establish this 
monument as well as pressing the Congress to enact this legislation. 
They have also worked with the national headquarters of the Lao 
Veterans of America and its chapters across the United States to 
reconstruct many of the records of the veterans, which were destroyed 
in Laos at the end of the Vietnam War.
  More than a thousand Hmong veterans from Wisconsin were in 
Washington, D.C. last week to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 
end of the Vietnam War in Laos and the passage of this legislation in 
the House of Representatives. Over four thousand Hmong veterans marched 
down Pennsylvania Avenue and attended ceremonies at the Vietnam War 
Memorial, the U.S. Capitol and Arlington National Cemetery.
  Mr. President, during the course of our consideration of this bill in 
Committee, an objection was raised to a provision of the bill that 
specifically mentions the Lao Veterans of America as an organization 
whose certification of the eligibility of an individual veteran as 
eligible for the benefits of this bill could be considered by the 
Attorney General. Given that there is reason to believe that the 
federal government has few remaining records of which Lao and Hmong 
participated in the U.S. Secret Army, I think it is entirely reasonable 
for the Attorney General to consider documentation provided by the Lao 
Veterans of America or other Lao or Hmong veterans' organizations. In 
fact, I understand that the Lao Veterans of America was named in the 
House legislation because it has maintained extensive records of the 
Hmong and Lao veterans of the U.S. Secret Army. Frankly, I do not 
understand why this provision became such a sticking point, but in 
order to move this bill along and get it to the President's desk as 
quickly as possible, I agreed to a modification of this provision.
  I am pleased that we reached agreement that this provision should not 
be removed in its entirety. And I emphasize, and I know that the 
Chairman of the Judiciary Committee agrees, that a negative inference 
should not be drawn from the fact that the name of this specific 
organization, the Lao Veterans of America, was removed from the bill. 
Even though its name was removed from the bill, the Lao Veterans of 
America can still provide documentation to the Attorney General, and 
the Attorney General may consider it.
  Mr. President, I again want to thank Senator Wellstone, Senator Kohl, 
and Senator Hatch for their work to facilitate passage of this 
important legislation that will help Hmong veterans finally attain 
their well-deserved goal of U.S. citizenship.
  Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.
  Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the bill, 
as amended, be read the third time and passed, and the motion to 
reconsider be laid upon the table, and that any statements relating 
thereto be placed in the Record at the appropriate place as if read.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The bill (H.R. 371), as amended, was read the third time and passed.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, if the Senator will yield a moment, I thank 
the Senator from Kansas and others for passing this bill. I know this 
has been a major cause of our retiring colleague from the other body, 
Bruce Vento. We had this before the Judiciary Committee this morning. I 
thank Senator Hatch and the others who helped make it possible to bring 
it out. It rights a grievous wrong, and it is a good piece of 
legislation.
  Mr. BROWNBACK. I thank my colleague for mentioning that. It is 
important that we are getting this bill passed. It is right to bring 
attention to this matter. These are people who have done great things 
for us and for our country. It should be taken care of. I am glad it 
cleared through committee so well.


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