The Senate Immigration Reform bill, S.744, has been a hot topic of conversation this week since passing its first vote, early this week. Journalists and people on social media have been buzzing about new amendments, controversies, and who supports what. Perhaps one of the most interesting events on the Senate floor, however, was a speech given in a language other than English. Virginia Senator Timothy M. Kaine gave a speech on the Senate floor entirely in Spanish. In his speech, he explained important aspects of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill to Spanish-speakers in the United States.
A senator needs unanimous consent to deliver a speech in a foreign language; Senator Kaine was given the permission he needed to do so. The speech took place last Tuesday afternoon, right before the first vote to proceed with the bill. Interestingly, Senator Kaine’s speech took place right after Senator Rubio introduced an amendment to S.744 to make learning to speak English a requirement for undocumented immigrants to obtain permanent residency.
Sign language translations for Senate speeches are common, and Senator Martinez also used some Spanish in a speech back in 2005. However, this was the first time a senator has delivered a floor speech entirely in Spanish, according to senate records.
Senator Kaine is not a native Spanish-speaker. He says he learned to speak Spanish when he was helping Jesuit missionaries run a Roman Catholic school in Honduras back in the early 1980s.
Senator Kaine said that the purpose of giving his speech in Spanish is the fact that Hispanics in the United States will be most affected by the changes brought on by the Immigration Reform bill, so it is important that they also understand what the bill is about. He is hoping that after his speech, other bilingual senators will follow his example and deliver speeches in languages other than English.
What did you think of Senator Kaine’s bold speech? Let us know in the comments!
Click here to watch Senator Kaine’s speech in Spanish!
Click here for more information about the Spanish floor speech!