The U.S. government has a new requirement for immigrants seeking to become citizens. This new addition started Dec. 1 and it may be a way to make is harder for legal immigrants to become naturalized citizens.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

The applicant must answer 12 out of 20 items, which is a passing score of 60%. The previous policy was only six out of 10 questions. The purpose of the test is to see if the applicants can demonstrate broader knowledge of U.S. history to ensure that they have the knowledge and understanding necessary to meet the civic responsibilities and exercise the rights of being a U.S. citizen.

The bank of civics test items to study has increased from 100 to 128. There are more “why” questions in this new test, most of them topics related to the concepts of limited government, natural rights, social contract and the Electoral College. There will also be questions about the U.S. legislative branch structure, amendments to the Constitution and American innovations. The updated version does not include geography questions from the prior test. But the question one has to ask is, why now? There are 8.8 million legal permanent residents who are eligible to apply for citizenship. This means over 8 million immigrants have waited for five years until they can apply for naturalization.

I still remember some of the questions I was asked during the naturalization test: Name one thing the U.S. Constitution does. The nation’s first motto was “e pluribus unum,” what does that mean? What war did the Americans fight to win independence from Britain? What is the name of the national anthem?

I remember having constant butterflies in my stomach as I was placed under oath, reviewed my N-400 and the officer assessed my ability to speak English before the civics test even started. How many Americans born and raised in this country can answer these questions? Not many.

Nine hundred thousand-plus immigrants became U.S. citizens through naturalization in 2019 only and on Jan. 17, 2019, 46 of these newly naturalized citizens raised their right hands and took the Oath of Allegiance in Portland. I was one of them. We must have shown we will support and defend the principles of the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

“So help me God” were the last words we said. The process was long and can take over a year from filling out the N-400 form, which the government will review to determine eligibility, to the day of the interview.

This new addition, meanwhile, may be part of President Trump’s restrictions on legal immigration and rejecting immigrants the rights and responsibilities that come with being naturalized, including voting in U.S. elections, running for office or even traveling abroad. The administration is also attempting to increase the application fees, including an 80% increase for citizenship petitions.

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