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House Passes Laotian Citizenship Bill

May 24, 2000|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Capping a 10-year effort, the House gave final approval Tuesday to legislation that would make it easier for Laotians who fought with America during the Vietnam War to become U.S. citizens. President Clinton is expected to sign it.

The bill, which passed without objection, waives the English-language requirement for Laotians recruited by the CIA for covert military actions during the war. Most of the Laotians are Hmong, an ethnic group.

Supporters say the Hmong have found it difficult to learn English because their language did not have a written form until recently.

"They have after all passed a more important test than a language test," said Rep. Bruce F. Vento (D-Minn.), whose state is home to approximately 60,000 Hmong, the most of any state. "They risked their lives for American values, often to save U.S. service personnel."

Vento, a 12-term House member who is retiring at the end of the year because of lung cancer, first introduced the bill a decade ago. He has called it one of his top legislative priorities.

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