2020 Democratic Presidential candidate and former backbencher Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) said that eliminating the citizenship test is “something for us to think about” at a candidate forum at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa over the weekend.
Yahoo News national political reporter Brittany Shepherd was among the reporters present who reported on O’Rourke’s comments, noting that he was replying to another panelist who characterized the citizenship test as a “structural barrier for immigrants.”
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, the citizenship test has two parts, one to test English proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing, and another to test civics knowledge. The USCIS has study materials and practice tests available on the website as well.
The civics portion is drawn from a list of 100 possible questions. Applicants are asked up to ten questions and must answer at least six correctly in order to pass. Applicants get two chances to take the English and civics tests per application, and if they fail either portion, will be retested on that portion between 60 and 90 days from the date of the original interview.
The test has generally been regarded as something that requires study, testing knowledge that many immigrants might not already know, but not overly onerous.
More importantly, the inclusion of concepts like democracy, freedom of speech and other rights, and free elections, are a crucial part of integrating a new immigrant into the American system.
The test needs to be fair, the scoring system clear and simple, and the materials potentially subject to testing readily available, and the overall administration of the test conducted in a transparent and ethical manner. But to suggest that immigrants not show basic proficiency in English and American history and our system of government is absurd.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) called O’Rourke’s suggestion “stunning” and proof that the Democratic presidential candidates were “embracing the far left, fringy, extreme wing of their party.” Twitchy had more reactions to this radical proposal.
Stunning. @BetoORourke says we should eliminate the citizenship exam, which tests new citizens’ knowledge of U.S. history and government.
Why IN THE WORLD would he think that’s a bad thing? Dems running for Pres are embracing the far left, fringy, extreme wing of their party. https://t.co/mcn3eZ2COY
— Rick Scott (@ScottforFlorida) June 8, 2019
Debates about immigration and what reforms would improve our system are a good and valid discussion, and to be expected as the 2020 elections rapidly approach. However, eliminating a basic test that asks an immigrant to prove a basic proficiency in our language and civics, and commitment to the American system, is a terrible idea that would only serve to make the system worse.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.