July 14, 2004 – According to naturalization officials, the US government is planning increasingly rigorous testing for immigrants to the United States starting in 2006, reports Reuters. Gerri Ratliff, director for the naturalization redesign project at US Citizen and Immigration Services, said her office, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, is planning a pilot program in several cities next year. She said the new requirements are an effort to make the citizenship test more uniform from place to place.
Since 1950, immigrants have had to demonstrate a minimum of English language proficiency as well as knowledge of American history and government. The new standards, however, would include having applicants give simple directions, participate in a conversation, respond to warnings, express needs and preferences, read and comprehend simple material, describe things in writing and fill out common forms or applications in English.
Some, however, want testing to include specifically patriotic information. John Fonte of the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, said at the same news briefing, "It should foster patriotism. The P word should be right up front with no blinking."
Advocacy groups for immigrants have yet to comment in the press about the new proposal, but in the past they have expressed concern that teaching democratic principles to people who come from disparate backgrounds could prove daunting.
Responding to an earlier announcement of changes to the test in the Miami Herald in January, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, who coordinates the citizenship classes held at Hialeah Senior High in Miami, said, "Most of our students are blue collar, with a similar level of education and 98 percent Hispanic. We really have our work cut out for us. As always, the burden falls on schools.''