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106th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                     106-563

=======================================================================



 
               HMONG VETERANS' NATURALIZATION ACT OF 2000

                                _______
                                

 April 6, 2000.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

 Mr. Hyde, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 371]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the 
bill (H.R. 371) to expedite the naturalization of aliens who 
served with special guerrilla units in Laos, having considered 
the same, reports favorably thereon with amendments and 
recommends that the bill as amended do pass.

                           TABLE OF CONTENTS

                                                                  

                                                                 Page
The Amendment..............................................           2
Purpose and Summary........................................           3
Background and Need for the Legislation....................           3
Hearings...................................................           6
Committee Consideration....................................           6
Vote of the Committee......................................           6
Committee Oversight Findings...............................           6
Committee on Government Reform Findings....................           6
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures..................           6
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate..................           7
Constitutional Authority Statement.........................           8
Section-by-Section Analysis and Discussion.................           8
Agency Views...............................................           9
    The amendments are as follows:
    Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu 
thereof the following:

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.

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.

    Amend the title so as to read:

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

                          Purpose and Summary

    The purpose of this bill is to expedite the naturalization 
of aliens who served with special guerrilla units in Laos 
during the Vietnam War.

                Background and Need for the Legislation

                             I. Background

    The Hmong ``are a mountain people from southern China and 
northern areas of Burma, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. . . . 
Beginning in the 1950's, Hmong soldiers fought the Communist 
Pathet Lao movement in Laos, and some Hmong later assisted U.S. 
forces during the Vietnam War. After the war ended in 1975, the 
Pathet Lao gained control of Laos and persecuted and imprisoned 
many of the Hmong allies of the United States.'' \1\ Between 
130,000 and 150,000 Laotian Hmong have entered the U.S. as 
refugees since 1975.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ World Book Encylcopedia ``H'' 270 (1995).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    At great personal peril and loss of life, the Hmong fought 
with American forces and performed critical roles in dangerous 
missions. A former CIA officer stated to the Subcommittee on 
Immigration and Claims that, ``[t]hroughout the war, CIA's 
paramilitary forces collected intelligence, used it in combat 
operations to tie down some 50,000 North Vietnamese forces in 
Laos, rescued downed American pilots and protected sensitive 
American installations at remote mountain tops. . . .'' \2\ The 
Hmong guarded LIMA Site 85, one of America's most important 
intelligence gathering sites during the Vietnam War. Close to 
the border of North Vietnam, this site allowed the United 
States to ``look-down'' electronically, on targets in Hanoi, 
the Red River Valley, and the Ho Chi Minh trail.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\ Hmong Veterans' Naturalization Act of 1997; and Canadian Border 
Boat Landing Permit Requirements: Hearing before the Subcomm. on 
Immigration and Claims of the House Judiciary Comm., 105th Cong., 1st 
Sess. at 19-20 (1997)(statement of Theodore Shackley)(hereinafter cited 
as ``Hearing'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Many Hmong refugees have found it difficult to naturalize 
because of a difficulty in learning English. This is due to the 
facts that they came from a tribal society without a written 
language until recent decades and that many Hmong were 
recruited to be guerrillas at the ages of 12-14 and hence did 
not attend school. In order to naturalize, permanent residents 
must demonstrate an understanding of the English language, 
including an ability to read, write, and speak words in 
ordinary usage in the English language.\3\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\ Immigration and Nationality Act sec. 312(a)(1).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

II. Concerns about Fraud and the Administration's Position in the 105th 
                                Congress

    H.R. 371 is designed to ease the path to naturalization in 
various ways for Hmong individuals who had fought in the CIA-
organized guerrilla units in Laos. In the 105th Congress, there 
were expressions of concern about potential fraud because of 
the possibility that Hmong refugees who did not actually serve 
in guerrilla units could claim to have done so. These concerns 
were related to difficulties in identifying which Hmong 
refugees actually fought on behalf of the United States as few 
records were kept of these covert operations.
    According to data from the Departments of State and 
Justice, about 2,600 families (about 12,000 people) entered 
under a category reserved for those who claimed to have fought 
alongside U.S. forces. However, these figures were suspect 
because (1) they were self-reported claims and (2) there were 
no compelling reasons for guerrillas to claim this status.
    On June 26, 1997, the Subcommittee on Immigration and 
Claims held a hearing on a 105th Congress bill providing 
naturalization relief to Hmong guerrillas (also numbered H.R. 
371). Louis Crocetti (Associate Commissioner for Examinations, 
Immigration and Naturalization Service) testified that:

          H.R. 371 would . . . be problematic to implement. . . 
        .
          . . . .
          In essence, a naturalization applicant under [H.R. 
        371] would simply have to present documents claiming to 
        have served in a special guerrilla unit. . . . It is 
        the experience of the Service in implementing programs 
        which rely on affidavits (such as the Immigration 
        Reform and Control Act of 1986) that fraud may be 
        prevalent.\4\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\ Hearing at 23-24.

    Mr. Crocetti further testified that the INS ``takes no 
position as to whether Congress should amend the INA to provide 
exceptions to the Hmong.'' \5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\ Id. at 23.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    On May 21, 1998, Ann Harkins, Acting Assistant Attorney 
General, Office of Legislative Affairs, Department of Justice, 
sent a letter to Lamar Smith, Chairman of the Subcommittee on 
Immigration and Claims, stating that:

          As introduced . . . H.R. 371 provided potential 
        opportunities for fraud, particularly because of lax 
        documentation requirements for proof of service with 
        special guerrilla units or irregular forces.
          Since the hearing concerning H.R. 371 in June 1997, 
        the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has 
        provided technical assistance in redrafting the bill 
        to: (1) tighten the documentation requirements; (2) 
        require the Department of Defense to review the 
        documentation; and (3) require the Department of 
        Defense to advise the INS with respect to the 
        credibility of claims of service with special guerrilla 
        units or irregular forces. As a consequence, the 
        Department does not object to this bill which, as 
        revised, would minimize the risk of fraud while 
        maximizing the intended benefit [to] certain Hmong 
        individuals and their spouses.

                             III. The Bill

    H.R. 371 in the current Congress is generally based on the 
Department of Justice proposal from 1998 and incorporates 
changes adopted by the committee last Congress to address 
fraud-related concerns. The bill would exempt naturalization 
applicants from the English language requirement if they were 
admitted into the United States as refugees from Laos and 
served with special guerrilla units or irregular forces 
operating from bases in Laos in support of the United States at 
any time during the period beginning February 28, 1961, and 
ending September 18, 1978, or who were spouses of such persons 
on the day on which such persons applied for admission as 
refugees.
    The bill would also provide the aliens described above with 
special consideration as to the civics requirement for 
naturalization. Section 312(a)(2) of the INA provides that a 
naturalization applicant must demonstrate a knowledge and 
understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the 
principles and form of Government, of the United States. 
Section 312(b)(3) of the INA already provides special 
consideration for aliens over 65 years of age who have been 
living in the United States for periods totaling at least 20 
years subsequent to lawful admission for permanent residence. 
Under this standard, applicants are tested at a less difficult 
level.\6\ Applicants are asked 10 questions from a special list 
of 25 U.S. history and Government questions. Six must be 
answered correctly.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\ Memorandum from Louis D. Crocetti, Jr., to all INS field 
offices (Dec. 22, 1995), reproduced in 73 Interpreter Releases 86 (Jan. 
16, 1996).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The bill requires aliens to submit documentation of their, 
or their spouse's, service with a special guerrilla unit, or 
irregular forces. The bill provides that in determining an 
alien's eligibility for benefits under this bill, the Attorney 
General (1) shall review refugee processing documents to verify 
that an alien was admitted to the United States as a refugee 
from Laos, (2) shall consider the documentation submitted by 
the alien, (3) shall request an advisory opinion from the 
Secretary of Defense, and (4) may consider any certification 
prepared by the Lao Veterans of America, Inc. or similar 
organizations.
    The Lao Veterans of America includes tens of thousands of 
Hmong and Lao veterans and their families who played roles in 
the U.S. covert war in Laos and Vietnam. It has stringent 
requirements for membership:

          The criteria for joining our organization is first, 
        filling out an application and submitting to an initial 
        interview, secondly determining that the prospective 
        member served a minimum of 1 year as a veteran and 
        thirdly, be certified by a former commander or his 
        representative, or the leader of the U.S. Secret Army 
        in Laos, Major General Vang Pao. Finally, the applicant 
        must be verified by a three member military review 
        board appointed by the Lao Veterans of America's Board 
        of Directors and Advisory Board.\7\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \7\ Letter from Wangyee Vang, National President, Lao Veterans of 
America, Inc., to Lamar Smith, Chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration 
and Claims (March 25, 1998).

    To further reduce the potential for fraudulent claims, the 
bill provides that a maximum of 45,000 permanent residents may 
take advantage of the benefits provided by the bill. The 45,000 
figure was chosen because according to information provided by 
the Lao Veterans of America, this is the outside range of the 
number of Hmong who actually should qualify for benefits under 
the bill.
    This legislation is supported by the American Legion and 
the Special Forces Association.

                                Hearings

    No hearings were held on H.R. 371 in the 106th Congress. 
However, the committee's Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims 
held 1 day of hearings on the predecessor bill in the 105th 
Congress, also H.R. 371, on June 26, 1997. Testimony was 
received from Congressman Bruce Vento; Louis D. Crocetti, Jr., 
Associate Commissioner for Examinations, Immigration and 
Naturalization Service; Susan Haigh, Ramsey County 
Commissioner, St. Paul, Minnesota; Mark Pratt; and Mark 
Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies.

                        Committee Consideration

    On March 28, 2000, the committee met in open session and 
ordered favorably reported the bill H.R. 371 without amendment 
by a voice vote, a quorum being present.

                         Vote of the Committee

    H.R. 371 was approved by a voice vote.

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the committee reports that the 
findings and recommendations of the committee, based on 
oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the 
descriptive portions of this report.

                Committee on Government Reform Findings

    No findings or recommendations of the Committee on 
Government Reform were received as referred to in clause 
3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives.

               New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures

    Clause 3(c)(2) of House Rule XIII is inapplicable because 
this legislation does not provide new budgetary authority or 
increased tax expenditures.

               Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the committee sets forth, with 
respect to the bill, H.R. 371, the following estimate and 
comparison prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 
1974:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                     Washington, DC, April 4, 2000.
Hon. Henry J. Hyde, Chairman,
Committee on the Judiciary,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 371, the Hmong 
Veterans' Naturalization Act of 1999.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact for this 
estimate is Mark Grabowicz, who can be reached at 226-2860.
            Sincerely,
                                  Dan L. Crippen, Director.

Enclosure

cc:
        Honorable John Conyers Jr.
        Ranking Democratic Member
H.R. 371--Hmong Veterans' Naturalization Act of 1999.
    CBO estimates that implementing this legislation would cost 
less than $500,000 annually in appropriated funds over the next 
two years. The bill also would affect direct spending, so pay-
as-you-go procedures would apply, but we estimate that the net 
effects would be less than $500,000 annually. H.R. 371 contains 
no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in 
the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would not have a 
significant effect on state budgets. The bill would have no 
impact on local or tribal governments.
    H.R. 371 would relax the naturalization requirements 
relating to English language proficiency and knowledge of 
civics for certain Laotians and their spouses. The bill would 
limit those eligible to apply under these relaxed standards to 
no more than 45,000 people who would have to apply for 
citizenship within 18 months of the bill's enactment. The 
naturalization fee is $225, so enacting H.R. 371 could increase 
fees collected by the Immigration and Naturalization Service 
(INS) by up to $10 million, mostly in fiscal year 2001. We 
expect that the INS would spend the fees (without further 
appropriation), mostly in the year in which they are collected, 
so enacting H.R. 371 would result in a net budgetary impact of 
less than $500,000 in any year.
    This legislation would require the INS to consult with the 
Department of Defense (DoD) regarding the military service of 
each applicant for naturalization under the bill's provisions. 
We expect that DoD would spend less than $500,000 annually on 
consultation.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Mark Grabowicz, 
who can be reached at 226-2860. This estimate was approved by 
Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy Assistant Director for Budget 
Analysis.

                   Constitutional Authority Statement

    Pursuant to clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the committee finds the authority for 
this legislation in Article 1, section 8, clause 4 of the 
Constitution.

               Section-by-Section Analysis and Discussion

Section 1. Short Title
Section 2. Exemption from English Language Requirement for Certain 
        Aliens Who Served with Special Guerrilla Units or Irregular 
        Forces in Laos
    Section 312(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act 
requires that, to be naturalized, a person must demonstrate an 
understanding of the English language, including an ability to 
read, write, and speak words in ordinary usuage in the English 
language, provided that the requirements relating to ability to 
read and write shall be met if the applicant can read or write 
simple words and phrases to the end that a reasonable test of 
his literacy shall be made and that no extraordinary or 
unreasonable conditions shall be imposed upon the applicant.
    The bill provides that the above requirement does not apply 
to the naturalization of any person who 1) was admitted into 
the United States as a refugee from Laos pursuant to section 
207 of the INA and 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) was admitted into the United States as a refugee from Laos 
pursuant to section 207 of the INA and was the spouse of a 
person described in point 1 on the day on which such person 
applied for admission into the United States as a refugee.
Section 3. Special Consideration Concerning Civics Requirement for 
        Certain Aliens Who Served with Special Guerrilla Units or 
        Irregular Forces in Laos
    Section 312(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act 
requires that, to be naturalized, a person must demonstrate a 
knowledge and understanding of fundamentals of the history, and 
of the principles and form of Government, of the United States.
    The bill specifies that the Attorney General shall provide 
for special consideration concerning this requirement for 
aliens described in section 2 of the bill.
Section 4. Documentation of Qualifying Service
    A person seeking benefits under section 2 or 3 of the bill 
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, 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.
Section 5. Determination of Eligibility for Exemption and Special 
        Consideration
    In determining a person's eligibility for benefits under 
section 2 or 3 of the bill, 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 and 
shall take into account that opinion, and 4) may consider any 
certification prepared by the Lao Veterans of America, Inc., or 
any similar organization maintaining records with respect to 
Hmong veterans or their families.
Section 6. Deadline for Application and Payment of Fees
    Applications for benefits under the bill must be filed, 
with appropriate fees, not later than 18 months after the date 
of enactment of the bill.
Section 7. Limitation on Number of Beneficiaries
    The total number of aliens who may be granted benefits 
under sections 2 or 3 may not exceed 45,000.

                              Agency Views

                        U.S. Department of Justice,
                             Office of Legislative Affairs,
                                    Washington, DC, March 29, 2000.
Hon. Henry J. Hyde, Chairman,
Committee on the Judiciary,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: This letter presents the views of the 
Department of Justice on H.R. 371, the ``Hmong Veterans 
Naturalization Act of 1999.'' The Department appreciates the 
courage of the Hmong veterans who would benefit from enactment 
of this legislation, as well as the particular challenge that 
the English and civics requirements for naturalization present 
to many such veterans and their spouses. We support this bill 
but would like to share with you several technical comments 
about H.R. 371 as introduced.
    Section 5(3) states that in determining eligibility for 
exemption and special consideration, the Attorney General shall 
request an advisory opinion from the Secretary of Defense. 
However, the bill does not require the Department of Defense to 
provide the advisory opinion. Furthermore, no provision is made 
regarding how the Attorney General shall proceed if the 
Department of Defense is unable to provide an advisory opinion. 
It is not necessarily the case that in every situation a 
Department of Defense opinion would be needed to determine 
eligibility. In the interest of flexibility, we recommend 
amending this clause to provide that the Attorney General may 
request an advisory opinion; that upon request, the Secretary 
of Defense shall provide the requested opinion to the extent 
possible; and that the Attorney General shall take into account 
any opinion that the Secretary of Defense is able to provide.
    Section 7 provides that 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. 
If deserving Hmong veterans or their spouses otherwise qualify 
for the benefits provided by this legislation, we question why 
it would be appropriate or necessary to deny them because of 
this cap. We also note that this provision is likely to cause 
uncertainty among the beneficiaries of this legislation.
    Thank you for the opportunity to provide our views. Please 
do not hesitate to call upon us if we may be of further 
assistance. The Office of Management and Budget has advised us 
that, from the standpoint of the Administration's program, 
there is no objection to the submission of this letter.
            Sincerely,
                  Robert Raben, Assistant Attorney General.

Identical letter sent to the Honorable John Conyers, Jr.