A bill inspired by a Lehigh Valley man’s desire to become a U.S. citizen passed the U.S. Senate on Monday night and headed to President Barack Obama for his signature, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., announced this morning in a news release.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Lehigh Valley, got the bill through the House on Dec. 5. The bill allows translators, interpreters or executive-level security personnel working abroad for the chief of mission or the U.S. armed forces to count that time toward the residency requirement for naturalization.
The bill was “hotlined” in the Senate, which means it passed without a vote but with no one objecting, Toomey’s office said this morning.
George Bou Jaoudeh, a legal permanent resident of Lebanese descent who lives in Bethlehem, has been seeking citizenship since 2005. The only thing precluding him from achieving the goal has been his civilian service to the United States.
Bou Jaoudeh has been working security for the U.S. Department of State for several years. The job requires him to spend four-month stints at U.S. embassies, mainly in the Middle East. His most recent detail has been in Iraq.
“It is unfair to prevent these individuals’ naturalization when it is their work on behalf of the American people that necessitates their being out of the country for so long,” Toomey said in the release. “In many cases, these individuals are working in dangerous locations and situations, and we ought to make the process of naturalization smoother for them. This bill would do just that, and I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for unanimously supporting it.”
Dent had said he tried other venues to get Dou Jaoudeh on a path to citizenship but finally realized it would take an act of Congress.
“These dedicated individuals are doing America a great service, often under dangerous conditions and in highly volatile environments,” Dent said in the release. “As Americans, we know it is unfair that people who so greatly wish to become American citizens should be penalized bureaucratically while they are making critical contributions to our country in the war against terrorism across the globe.”