U is for the United States

I was thinking of the changes that the USCIS has made in the citizenship test to become a U.S. citizen. Just based on this sampling, the new test seem more vague.

TEST before October 1, 2008 – Sample U.S. Citizenship Test Questions:
1. How many stars are there on the US flag?
2. How many states are there in the Union?
3. What color are the stars on our flag?
4. What do the stars on the flag mean?
5. How many stripes are there on the flag?
6. What date is the Day of Independence?
7. The US achieved Independence from whom?
8. What country did we fight during the Revolutionary War?
9. Who was the first President of the United States?
10. What do we call a change of the Constitution?
All pretty straightforward, I think. (If you need the answers, e-mail me.)

REDESIGNED TEST – Sample U.S. Citizenship Test Questions:
1. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.
OK, pretty easy. Well, unless you get all technical about it. If Congress is supposed to declare war, are the armed conflicts the US has had after WWII actually wars?
2. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
Well, I’m sure she DID lots of different things, such as eating breakfast. I know that fighting for women’s suffrage is the answer, but it feels awkwardly phrased.
3. What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
Would philandering be an acceptable answer? Yeah, they want the almanac, electricity, the stove, eyewear, diplomat to France and that type of thing, but again, pretty open-ended.
4. There were 13 original states. Name three.
Pretty easy – just stay on the east coast and don’t pick Maine, Vermont or Florida.
5. What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?
Huh? Is this a reference to voting? If so, other people vote in their own countries and lots of people here don’t. If it’s serving on juries, lots of people get out that. Non-citizens serve in the military, and most citizens don’t.
6. What does the judicial branch do?
I get a lot of right-wing literature, so if someone wrote “make law”, they might very well think they’re right.
7. Name your U.S. Representative.
Now, THAT’S a good question. Mine’s Paul Tonko, freshman Democrat.
8. Who makes federal laws?
Unless you answer The Supreme Court, easy one.
9. What does the Constitution do?
Well it DOES a lot of things, including setting terms of government officials. Another amorphous question.
10. What is the supreme law of the land?
Ah, a tough but knowable question. Article VI of the Constitution of the United States contains the “supremacy clause,” which establishes that laws passed by Congress, treaties of the United States with other nations, and the Constitution “shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”

Here’s another sample test; looks rather old school, though. For new test guides, I’d go to the USCIS site.

I recently took one of those Could you pass the U.S. citizenship test? things on Facebook and got 19 out of 20; don’t know what I missed. Being an American, and hearing how some of my fellow citizens interpret things, I’ve long believed that non-Americans might well fare better on the citizenship test than those born in the USA.
Curious thing: I was riding my bike to church a week and a half ago and, as usual, checked out the license plates. understand that church is only 1.6 miles from my house, according to Mapquest. I saw plates from the states of MA, NJ, and VT; not at all unusual. I also saw plates from PA and FL, not rare. (Folks from Florida often come north for the summer.) But I also saw CA, DE, MD, MI, OH, RI, SC, TX, VA, and WI. It was not a college graduation weekend. Most peculiar.


Citizen Zhang

swearing in

Jinshui Zhang, one of my co-workers, became a U.S. citizen last month. He was one of 63 people from 36 countries to become naturalized. He was from the People’s Republic of China.

The event was held in the Federal Building, a former post office right across the street from our office. While I went to the building often in its previous incarnation, I’ve rarely been there recently. One goes through a metal detector, not unlike the ones at the airport. The security personnel are not as humorless as the airport workers, and they accepted my work ID, which the airport almost never does.

The ceremony was scheduled for 8:30 a.m., but at that hour, there was a long line of people waiting in line to get their paperwork checked. This process took over a half an hour. I was told that they used to have fewer people naturalized at more frequent intervals, but now have more people but less frequently as a result of 9/11/2001 concerns. How this helps security screening, I don’t know.

Photos allowed

There was a big sign at the entrance to the building prohibiting cameras, but apparently the ban doesn’t apply to this particular event. So folks were able to run across the street and retrieve their photographic equipment without missing anything.

An officer from Homeland Security was cheerfully goofy in explaining what was going to happen. I got the sense that he had other duties in his job that weren’t nearly so pleasant.

The ceremony itself started at 9:30, with the judge giving his well wishes, etc. He introduced the representatives from the League of Women Voters, who were, by that point, actually out in the hall waiting to give out materials to encourage the new citizens to vote (something native-born citizens could do well to do better at). He also introduced four ladies from the Daughters of the American Revolution (more on them some other time), who gave out flags, pins and other paraphernalia.

A lawyer sang a couple of patriotic songs, the latter, God Bless America, with the assembled crowd. He wasn’t bad, for a lawyer.

Then the swearing-in took place. The folks running the show, the judge, the court clerk, and especially the Homeland Security officer, were very effusive in their care of the new Americans.

Everyone in the office knew that Jinshui studied hard to take the written test. I noted to one of my co-workers that I doubted that most native-born Americans could pass it. Try it yourself.

Congratulations, Jinshui!

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