Prime min­is­ter pro­poses tougher cit­i­zen­ship rules

Changes such as 4-year wait, val­ues test must be OK’d by Par­lia­ment

The Dallas Morning News - - WORLD - Damien Cave, The New York Times

DAR­WIN, Aus­tralia — When Nhan Do heard that Aus­tralia planned to make it more dif­fi­cult to be­come a cit­i­zen of the coun­try he had called home for 25 years, he was over­come with con­fu­sion.

“I have to ask, why do they keep making it harder?” said Do, 41, who fled Viet­nam as a teenager. “It’s hard enough.”

On Thurs­day, Prime Min­is­ter Malcolm Turn­bull pro­posed tough new re­quire­ments for would-be cit­i­zens, in­clud­ing stricter stan­dards for English-lan­guage pro­fi­ciency, an “Aus­tralian val­ues” test and a four-year wait.

Do, a cit­i­zen who has made his life in Dar­win, now wor­ries that his wife, Lahn, a per­ma­nent res­i­dent who can barely read or write, will never ob­tain cit­i­zen­ship and fully be­long.

“We want this to be our coun­try,” Do said. “We’ve been here a long time.”

The pro­posed changes, which must be ap­proved by Par­lia­ment, are the lat­est chal­lenge to Aus­tralia’s proud mul­ti­cul­tural im­age af­ter a tight­en­ing of skilled worker visas this week. Taken to­gether, the moves put Aus­tralia at the fore­front of a global move­ment to limit mi­gra­tion and to turn cit­i­zen­ship from some­thing meant to help peo­ple in­te­grate into what Turn­bull called a “big prize” — a re­ward for hav­ing as­sim­i­lated.

Those who fa­vor rais­ing the bar­ri­ers, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, ar­gue that cit­i­zen­ship is a priv­i­lege that should be given only to those who can prove they have made a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fort to adapt to their new coun­try.

Aus­tralia has been a quiet ex­am­ple of suc­cess­ful mass im­mi­gra­tion. About 27 per­cent of its pop­u­la­tion is for­eign-born, roughly dou­ble the ra­tio in the United States and Eng­land.

Al­ready, Aus­tralia’s cit­i­zen­ship test can only be taken in English, and it in­cludes ques­tions about free­dom of speech and other demo­cratic norms.

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