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December 1st: Innocuous Changes to Citizenship Exam Part of Trump Administration’s Campaign War on Immigration

— December 2, 2020

The changes to the test not only make the exam more difficult, but accompany other piecemeal policies designed to complicate immigrants’ ability to become Americans.

The Trump administration is introducing an overhaul of the test prospective U.S. citizens must take in order to be naturalized.

Arizona Central reports that every person who applies for citizenship after December 1st will have to sit for the new examination. The revised version is purportedly more difficult than its predecessor; it also contains 128 questions about American history and politics, instead of the previous 100 questions.

While prospective citizens do not have to answer all of the questions in a single setting, the questions are drawn from a pool—meaning they have to study all the possible scenarios and answers.

And although the percentage necessary to pass the test has not changed, past applicants had to answer six out of ten questions correct in order to become naturalized. Now, applicants will have to answer at least 12 out of 20 questions correctly.

In either case, prospective citizens were required to score at least 60%. However, adding more questions to the sit-down exam means that immigrants will have to be even better prepared.

On paper, the Trump administration’s changes do not seem all that offensive—it is not particularly unreasonable that a nation expects prospective citizens to understand its history, ideals, and political processes.

Image via Maxpixel. (CCA-BY-0.0)/public domain

Immigration advocates, though, have said the test is yet another attempt by the Trump administration to curb legal immigration. Taken by itself, the enhanced examination appears innocuous—something conservatives could mock liberals for opposing.

But taken together with the Trump administration’s broader immigration policy and goals, another picture emerges.

Ray Ybarra Maldonado, a Phoenix-based immigration attorney, told Arizona Central that the test’s abrupt complication is an obviously artificial barrier to naturalization.

“I think it’s unfortunate that they are making it more difficult to become a citizen of the United States,” Ybarra Maldonado said. “The test was already difficult. It required people to learn a lot that even the average person who was born a citizen didn’t know, so to me it’s disappointing to see them put another barrier between people who are legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens.”

Arizona Central notes that the Trump administration has not only made the citizenship test more difficult, but it has also significantly increased the cost of attaining U.S. citizenship.

Earlier this year, the White House attempted to push through an initiative which would have raised the cost for applying for citizenship by nearly 80%–prospective citizens would have had to pay about $1,170 to file.

While a federal court has temporarily prevented the fee increased from taking it effect, the policy remains on the books.

The Migration Policy Institute observed in a July-issued report that the Trump administration seems to be trying to convince Americans that all immigrants—undocumented, legal, or not—pose a threat to the nation’s integrity.

“Trump’s election brought into mainstream political discourse the previously fringe idea that legal as well as illegal immigration is a threat to the United States’ economy and security,” the MPI wrote. “His administration has tightened the already bureaucratic maze for those wishing to enter the country temporarily or permanently.”


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