New Naturalization test ready

Published 6:19 pm Thursday, September 27, 2007

Just as the signers of the Declaration of Independence must have felt apprehension at pledging allegiance to a new country, so must the immigrants who prepare for the citizenship test.

That’s what local businessman and English language instructor Fernando Ramirez said after hearing of new regulations to the test. Ramirez also teaches advanced English classes and recently started teaching citizenship classes to prepare individuals for the lengthy test.

“They, like the signers of the Declaration of Independence, are giving allegiance to a new country. I tell them (students) the signers had the same feelings they are going through and explain they, like the signers, pledged their allegiance for the betterment of their lives and families,” he said.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Thursday the 100 questions and answers that comprise the civics component of the new naturalization test. USCIS will administer the test beginning in October 2008.

Ramirez said one of the reasons the test was changed was because many people were memorizing the answers but failing the verbal portion.

“Now, you have to have enough knowledge of the English language to hold a job,” he said. “Some say this is racism but it’s not that. The issue is being taken so seriously that the local Texas Workforce now has two English classes, at capacity, each week.”

Earlier this year, more than 6,000 citizenship applicants volunteered to take a pilot version of the test at 10 naturalization sites across the country during a four month period. The 100 new civic items on the new naturalization test were selected after USCIS, a panel of history and government scholars, and English as a Second Language teachers conducted a thorough review of the responses to the 142 items on the pilot test.

The revised test will help strengthen assimilation efforts by emphasizing fundamental concepts of American democracy, basic U.S. history and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. It is also expected promote patriotism among prospective citizens.