Tim Kaine Gives Immigration Speech in Spanish on Senate Floor

Wednesday, 12 Jun 2013 12:51 PM

By Courtney Coren

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Sen. Tim Kaine offered his endorsement of the immigration reform bill in Spanish on Tuesday, marking what was thought to be the first time a member of the Senate delivered a speech on the floor entirely in another language.

"El senado ha comenzado un debate histórico sobre una reforma migratoria comprensiva," the Virginia Democrat began.

His office told The Washington Post the translation broke down roughly this way: "The Senate has started an historic debate about comprehensive immigration reform."

Continuing in Spanish, the senator emphasized his strong support for reform because "nuestro sistema no satisface las demandas de negocios que desean atraer y retener inmigrantes sumamente calificados,” or “our immigration system does not meet the demands of businesses that wish to attract and retain highly qualified immigrants."

Coincidentally, the freshman senator delivered his remarks immediately following the introduction of an amendment by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida requiring illegal immigrants to learn the English language before being granted permanent residency in the United States. Rubio, one of the Senate's most high-profile Hispanic members, did not speak in Spanish.

Kaine told the Post he enjoyed speaking after Rubio, a leading negotiator on the immigration measure.

"He was going through various aspects of the bill and I just did exactly the same thing, and did it in Spanish," Kaine said.

According to Senate records, Kaine's speech was the first delivered entirely in Spanish by a member on the Senate floor, although other languages have been incorporated on occasion as part of remarks made by lawmakers. Sign language has also been used on the floor as well.

According to the Post, Kaine learned Spanish decades ago and became fairly fluent in the language in the early 1980s, when he took a break from Harvard Law School to work with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras.

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