October 1, 2007
Written by C.N.
You might have heard that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or ‘INS’) will be implementing a new and expanded test that each immigrant is required to pass in order to earn U.S. citizenship. As the New York Times reports, the new test is the first major overhaul in more than 20 years:
The redesign of the test . . . follows years of criticism in which conservatives said the test was too easy and immigrant advocates said it was too hard. The new questions did little to quell that debate among many immigrant groups, who complained that the citizenship test would become even more daunting. Conservatives seemed to be more satisfied. . . .
Several historians said the new questions successfully incorporated more ideas about the workings of American democracy and better touched upon the diversity of the groups — including women, American Indians and African-Americans — who have influenced the country’s history. . . .
In a statement today, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, one of the groups consulted in shaping the new test, denounced it as “the final brick in the second wall.” The group said the test included “more abstract and irrelevant questions” that tended to stump hard-working immigrants who had little time to study.
But several historians said the test appeared to be fair.
The USCIS also offers a comparison of the current questions versus the new, revised questions. In my initial reading of the new versus old questions, it seems to me that many questions are virtually the same, some are a little easier, and a few more are a little harder. In fact, as the article points out, immigrants who do well on the new revised test are likely to know more about American history and civics than most Americans.
So the question is, is that fair? Should immigrants be expected to, in effect, know more than the typical U.S.-born American? As I wrote earlier, recent data suggests that Americans tend to feel that in determining who qualifies to be “American,” actions are more important than origin.
That’s encouraging to know because if immigrants who pass the new citizenship test are likely to know more about American democratic ideals than U.S.-born Americans, that should mean that such immigrants may deserve to be called “Super Americans.”
I’m exaggerating of course, but my point is this — if we as a society are going to raise the bar for who gets to become an American, those who cross that bar — regardless of where they come from or what religion they observe — deserve our most sincere congratulations and welcome as full-fledged, equal members of American society.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "New Citizenship Test" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/10/new-citizenship-test/> ().
Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=489