Law Eases Path to Citizenship for Many


A bill that removes the final barrier to U.S. citizenship for many people with severe disabilities has been signed into law by President Clinton.

The law could help thousands of disabled people who would qualify for citizenship if not for the fact that they cannot recite the oath of allegiance, said Micheal Hill, a lobbyist for the country’s Catholic bishops in Washington D.C.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) and signed Monday by the president, was inspired by the case of Vijai Rajan, 25, a mentally and physically disabled Anaheim woman. Rajan, born in India, has lived in the United States since she was 4 months old. She has cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Crohn’s disease, and cannot say or understand the oath of allegiance, her family said.


Cox’s bill was an amended version of one first sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).

The law empowers the U.S. attorney general to grant exceptions to the oath requirement.

For six years, Rajan’s family--all citizens themselves--tried to win citizenship for her. Last April, they filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which had asserted that federal law did not allow it to make exceptions to the oath requirement.

Cox said the parents will have to reapply for Rajan’s citizenship, but added that he is ready to help.

Rajan’s parents said the victory is so fresh they aren’t sure of their next step. But in the next few days, they will inquire about finally winning citizenship for their daughter, Shawn Rajan said, probably with the congressman’s help.

Sen. Feinstein’s office also has offered assistance, she said.

Shawn Rajan said she looked forward to Vijai getting a passport, allowing her to travel undeterred by the bureaucratic problems that noncitizens face when they go abroad.

She said many people offered encouragement as their cause gathered strength. In a recent letter, a county social worker reminded Shawn Rajan that the new law “is not only something positive for your daughter, but for the entire disabled community,” Vijai’s mother said.


The Rajans said they wanted to ensure that their bedridden daughter has the protection of citizenship after they die.

“We’re not expecting anybody to support her, but we want her to be an American,” Shawn Rajan said.