Published September 28, 2007
WASHINGTON – As U.S. immigration officials narrowed the list of questions for a new citizenship test, Martin Luther King Jr. made the cut, but Patrick Henry did not.
Citizenship and Immigration Services released on Thursday the pool of 100 civics and history questions that could be asked of people wanting to become naturalized Americans.
They will begin using the new citizenship test Oct. 1, 2008. Just as with the current test, applicants will have to answer correctly six of 10 questions asked orally and pass the English proficiency portion of the exam.
About 42 civics questions were dropped or revised to reach the final 100. Among those that were dropped was, "Who said 'Give me liberty or give me death?'" The answer is Patrick Henry, a colonial American revolutionary.
One question that survived the cut is "What did Martin Luther King Jr. do?" Among the possible answers are: Fought for civil rights and worked for equality for all Americans. King was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for his civil rights campaign in the United States.
Immigration officials said some questions may have additional correct answers beyond those provided. About 15 to 16 questions had to be reworded.
"This is a naturalization test which genuinely captures applicants' knowledge of what it is he's about ready to be — a United States citizen," said Emilio Gonzalez, Citizenship and Immigration Services director.
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. Their work helped narrow the list of questions.
That compares to an 84 percent passing rate for applicants taking the current test for the first time.
Pass rates were not available for those who took the test in English as a second language, or ESL, classes.
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, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security.
North Americans comprised 6 percent of the volunteers who took the test.
Last year, about 703,000 people became U.S. citizens. People born in Mexico led all immigrants in naturalizations in 2006.
The final questions got mixed reviews.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said in a news release the test would impose a steeper knowledge load on citizenship applicants.
The group said questions like "What is the rule of law? and "Who was the president during World War I" would be difficult for most Americans.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which works to improve the naturalization process, found the questions more acceptable.
William Ramos, NALEO's Washington director, said the group now wants to be sure adjudicators are properly trained to administer the test. He said groups want a chance to look at data from the pilot tests, which they were supposed to get about two weeks ago.
Officials said they will train adjudicators, develop test preparation material and hold training sessions on how to teach civics and citizenship to immigrants.