Trump’s New Citizenship Test Is Full of Conservative Bias—And Dotted With Mistakes

People seeking U.S. citizenship deserve better.

On December 1, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service began administering a new naturalization test to those hoping to become U.S. citizens. The test draws from 128 potential civics questions, with the approved answers posted on the USCIS website. The test is given orally, and all applicants for naturalization will have to answer 20 of those questions chosen at random, with a passing score of 12.

When the test was first released a few weeks ago, many critics focused on its needless difficulty and complexity. The previous iteration of the test, last revised in 2008, required applicants to answer six of 10 questions, drawn from a pool of only 100. Several new questions call for biographical details about Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and Dwight Eisenhower, while another asks for “the purpose of the 10th Amendment.” Critics of the new test believe that it is intended to create an additional and unnecessary barrier to naturalization.

But perhaps the most significant feature of the test is its decidedly conservative political tilt, sometimes to the point of inaccuracy.

Certain questions, for example, reflect the Trump administration’s position in a case that is currently under Supreme Court review. Earlier this week, the court heard oral argument in a challenge to Trump’s unprecedented attempt to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the census count for the purpose of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives. All nine justices seemed fairly skeptical of Trump’s plan, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett observing that “a lot of the historical evidence and longstanding practice really cuts against [Trump’s] position.” After all, the 14th Amendment provides that representatives be apportioned according to “the whole number of persons in each State,” which has always previously been thought to mean exactly what it says.

By Steven Lubet for POLITICO
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