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Immigrants Face New Citizenship Test: Advocates say test is more difficult, answers too subjective

By October 9, 2007One Comment

Immigrants Face New Citizenship Test: Advocates say test is more difficult, answers too subjective
By: AsianWeek Staff Report, Oct 09, 2007 Print Email Share
Tags: Bay Area, National |
WASHINGTON — Asian American leaders say the country’s redesigned naturalization test is more difficult than before and will result in decreased citizenship within the community.

Citizenship and Immigration Services released on Sept. 27 the pool of 100 civics and history questions that could be asked of people wanting to become naturalized Americans. Test takers will only be given 10 at a time, and they will have to answer correctly six of 10 questions asked orally and pass the English proficiency portion of the exam. The new naturalization test will be given to test takers beginning in October of 2008.

Forty-eight percent of foreign-born Asian Americans are naturalized U.S. citizens, higher than the average for the foreign-born population as a whole, which is 37 percent, according to 2003 Census numbers.
Immigration officials said some questions may have additional correct answers beyond those provided. Among the questions is, “What did Martin Luther King Jr. do?” Possible answers include: Fought for civil rights and worked for equality for all Americans.
The federal government has been trying out the questions since February in immigration offices and at classes in 13 states for English as a second language.
About 92 percent of the 6,777 applicants who volunteered to take the test at immigration offices in 10 test cities passed. That compares to an 84 percent passing rate for applicants taking the current test for the first time.
Immigrants from Central America had the lowest pass rate at 85.1 percent, while those from the region of Oceania, which includes Australia, New Zealand and many of the South Pacific islands, had a 100 percent pass rate.
The redesigned test, the first since the standardized test was created in 1986, is part of the Bush administration’s efforts to put legal immigrants on the path to citizenship, while leaving aside the unresolved issue of undocumented immigrants. In light of the highly contested recent immigration debate, the new test focuses on assimilation and patriotism.

New Citizenship Test: Too Difficult?

“This is a test that native-born Americans who have been through civics in high school can’t pass 100 percent.”
— Alicia Wang, ESL and citizenship teacher at S.F. City College

“Without linguistically and culturally appropriate community outreach and study guides, this new test will have a negative effect on Asian immigration to America.”
— George C. Wu, Asian American Justice Center staff attorney

“The new test is more difficult [and] more subjective. How many college-educated people know the name of a drafter of The Federalist Papers?”
— Rob Uy, API Legal Outreach staff attorney

“Memorizing historical facts stated in grammatically correct sentences will not assimilate immigrants to mainstream U.S. society.”
— Becky Okhee Bae, Immigrant Rights Project program associate, National Korean American Service and Education Consortium

“It’s very disappointing that the new test overlooked the opportunity to
include more information about the history of other immigrant communities.”
— Mark Yoshida, Asian Pacific American Legal Center staff attorney

“There should be at least one Asian American focused question in the test. This would enhance the inclusive nature of the new naturalization test and better represent the diversity in this country.”
— Debee Yamamoto, director of public policy, Japanese American Citizens League

“We are somewhat supportive of this new test, but it needs to be reviewed and revised.”
— Dang Pham, executive director of the Immigrant Rights Commission