The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services just released a redesigned naturalization test for those seeking to become United States citizens. The revised test is intended to emphasize “fundamental concepts of American democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship” and to encourage immigrants “to learn and identify with the basic values we all share as Americans.” As was the case previously, those taking the newly revised test must correctly answer 6 of 10 randomly selected questions from a list of 100 in order to pass. At first blush, that doesn’t sound too onerous. 60%, after all, was scraping the bottom of the D barrel when I went to school.
But let’s take a look at the test. Admittedly, some of the questions are embarrassingly simple. For example:
What is the name of the national anthem?
When do we celebrate Independence Day?
What is the capital of the United States?
Name one state that borders Canada.
Name one state that borders Mexico.
What ocean is on the West coast of the United States?
What ocean is on the East coast of the United States?
Who was the first President?
If you can’t answer these questions without study, you don’t deserve citizenship.
Some of the questions, however, are a little more challenging. Not difficult mind you. But they do require that the test taker have an ability to do more than fog a mirror. For example:
How many amendments does the Constitution have?
What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
What is the economic system in the United States?
What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
We elect U.S. Senators for how many years?
The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
Why do some states have more representatives than others?
If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
What are two Cabinet-level positions?
How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
Who is the Chief Justice of the United States?
Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?
What is the name of the Speaker of the House of Representatives now?
Why did the colonists fight the British?
When was the Constitution written?
The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.
What did Susan B. Anthony do?
Who was President during World War I?
Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?
There are a lot of folks these days blustering about the evils of illegal immigration. They may be right, they may be wrong. I really don’t know and quite frankly, I’m not losing any sleep over it. Our economy runs on cheap labor provided by illegals of all stripes, and we all benefit from that whether we admit it or not. Illegals pick our fruits and vegetable, slaughter our beef, poultry and pork, dig our ditches, mow our lawns, slam our dishes, make our beds and wipe our kids’ asses and noses. Yeah there are costs associated with them being here, but there are costs associated with having some of our own countrymen around too. In fact, some in this latter category are probably the very same folks who have got themselves all lathered up over illegal immigration. Whatever. You have the right in this country to speak your mind, even if in doing so you come across as a rabid, xenophobic hatemonger. That’s the beauty of America.
Anyway, given their attitudes, it might be interesting to administer the new naturalization test to the anti-illegal immigration crowd to see whether these self-styled über-patriots, these supposed guardians of the American way of life, can “identify with the basic values we all share as Americans.” Based upon what I have seen, heard and read, I have my doubts.
Being the equal opportunity offender that I am, I have serious reservations about the pro-illegal immigration crowd as well. Parenthetically, I know the terms “illegal” and “illegal immigrant” are not supposed to be uttered in polite and politically correct company. But Jesus Christ people, get some thicker skin. Whether you like it or not, these folks entered this county in violation of our federal immigration laws. By definition, therefore, they are here illegally. All of your hand-wringing and semantic sleight of hand does not change that fact. So get over it and focus on more important issues.
But I digress.
Just as the anti-illegal immigration crowd cops an attitude about the subject, so too does the pro-illegal immigration crowd. Many of the folks on this side of the equation appear to believe that all immigrants are created equally. Theirs is an entitlement mentality under which the sole litmus test for citizenship is one’s ability to make it across the international border. They demand all of the rights of citizenship, but disclaim any responsibility. They want their children educated in American schools, but refuse to assimilate by learning the native language. They flood into this country because conditions are so freaking wretched in their countries of origin, yet they then support those same countries over their adopted country in diplomatic and policy skirmishes, sporting events and the like. WTF Dorothy? You ain’t in Aztlán any more.
So the question naturally arises, how many of these folks could pass the new naturalization test if it was administered to them on the spot? I’d liked to be proved wrong, but my suspicion is not many. Perhaps I’m being entirely too pessimistic about the whole affair, but like their picket waving, bullhorn toting nemeses on the other end of the sidewalk, these folks seem less interested in America the tangible than they are in America the ideal, untethered as it is from the burdens of all practical reality.