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THIS TIME AROUND, a new Trump low is achieved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and its “improved” version of the civics test administered to aspiring U.S. citizens. Today in Part 2, we see how political motives and disinformation are incorporated into the process.

Political Trumpery. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, said the questions on the 2020 version of the test have taken on a “subtle political stance.”

I state the matter more strongly: Some answers are highly politically motivated; others are downright disinformation, i.e., intended lies. 

The New Citizenship Process. To prepare test takers, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provide a list of the 128 potential questions together with answers. For comparison purposes, see “100 Civics Questions and Answers for the 2008 Test.”

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network suggested from its analysis that 40 of the earlier questions remained unchanged; the rest of the 128 are reworded or new to the test. It also wrote, “The complexity of the vocabulary required to learn and understand the test questions has significantly increased” and “The answers to some questions have been changed based on political influence, rather than accuracy.”

How Would We Citizens Do? As an aside, in 2018 the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation wrote that only one-third of American citizens would pass the 2008 test. Thanks to The New York Times, December 3, 2020, here’s an opportunity to evaluate yourself on the 2020 test. And, note, though this NYT example is multiple choice, the actual USCIS test is not.

Image by Matt Barnard/Tulsa World, via Associated Press from The New York Times, December 3, 2020

 Amendment Ken. A new question, No. 60, asks “What is the purpose of the 10th Amendment?” Answer: “(It states that the) powers not given to the federal government belong to the states or to the people.”  

As noted in The New York Times, December 3, 2020, “Singled out for a new question is the 10th Amendment… a part of the Bill of Rights that is a favorite among conservatives questioning federal authority.” 

Citizens versus The People. Politically tinged though Question 60 is, at least its answer is legitimate. By contrast, Question 31 asks, “Who does a U.S. senator represent?” The answer given in the 2020 civics test is “Citizens from their state.”

In the 2008 test, the answer was “all people of the state.” 

A new question, No. 33, asks, “Who does a member of the House of Representative represent?” Similarly, the answers given are “Citizens from their (congressional) district” or “Citizens in their district.” Not “the people” of the district. 

Voice of America cites Aaron Reichlin-Melnick: “This is not correct. Members of Congress represent everyone who lives within their district, regardless of citizenship status. It’s been that way since the nation was founded.” 

VOA observes, “It is not known whether President-elect Joe Biden will undo any changes in the civics test.” 

And, again, we are reminded of the importance of Voice of America. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

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