All-Amer­i­can test

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

For cer­tain im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates, U.S. cit­i­zen­ship means lit­tle more than where a cit­i­zen hangs his hat. For those with a deeper ap­pre­ci­a­tion for what it means to be an Amer­i­can — in­clud­ing those of us who cel­e­brate our im­mi­grant ori­gins and sup­port or­derly im­mi­gra­tion — cit­i­zen­ship comes with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Be­ing a cit­i­zen means first of all un­der­stand­ing the his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural and in­tel­lec­tual her­itage of the coun­try you are ask­ing to join.

With that in mind, U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices has spent the last sev­eral years re­vamp­ing the nat­u­ral­iza­tion process for would-be cit­i­zens. On Nov. 30, the im­mi­gra­tion ser­vice re­vealed pilot ques­tions for its new cit­i­zen­ship test that it says are de­signed to test an im­mi­grant’s un- der­stand­ing of Amer­i­can civics, rather than a set of eas­ily mem­o­rized facts.

For in­stance, in­stead of only ask­ing who wrote the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, a new ques­tion asks, “Name one im­por­tant idea found in the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence” — a much bet­ter ques­tion since the test-taker must ac­tu­ally read the doc­u­ment to an­swer cor­rectly. Th­ese kind of ques­tions ex­pand the num­ber of avail­able an­swers, in­stead of hav­ing just one cor­rect an­swer to me­morize. The new list of ac­cept­able an­swers to this par­tic­u­lar ques­tion in­clude “Peo­ple are born with nat­u­ral rights,” as well as “The power of gov­ern­ment comes from the peo­ple.” To cite an­other good ex­am­ple, pre­vi­ous tests would ask, “What are the col­ors of the flag?” Now, a new ques­tion asks, “Why do we have 13 stripes on the flag?”

Th­ese are wel­come changes. We are es­pe­cially en­cour­aged to see pilot ques­tions many Amer­i­cans would be hard-pressed to an­swer. For ex­am­ple, do you know how many amend­ments to the Con­sti­tu­tion there are? And could you name one of the au­thors of the Fed­er­al­ist Pa­pers?

We note that the 144 pilot ques­tions still in­clude a few “gimmes,” such as who wrote the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, and when was it signed, but the qual­ity of the ques­tions is much im­proved. The im­mi­gra­tion ser­vice will con­duct sam­ple tests over the next year to eval­u­ate which ques­tions work bet­ter than oth­ers, al­though we trust that a “good” ques­tion won’t be de­fined as merely an easy one.

Nat­u­rally, not ev­ery­one is happy with the new ques­tions. Im­mi­gra­tion groups are lin- ing up to crit­i­cize the ques­tions as be­ing too dif­fi­cult and plac­ing too great an em­pha­sis on English pro­fi­ciency. “It’s about bar­ri­ers to let­ting peo­ple be­come cit­i­zens,” says Christina DeConcini, pol­icy di­rec­tor for the pro-open-borders Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Fo­rum. We dis­agree. To “be­come a cit­i­zen” means more than chang­ing your pass­port.

No one who both­ers to study a lit­tle would have a hard time pass­ing the new test. There’s even a study guide for im­mi­grants which will give ev­ery­one who pays at­ten­tion ev­ery­thing they need to know to sail to an A-plus. The im­mi­gra­tion ser­vice doesn’t want any­one to fail. Quite the con­trary, it wants im­mi­grants to suc­ceed and be­come even bet­ter-in­formed Amer­i­cans than some of us who were lucky enough to be born here.

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