Seventy-five Mainers became United States citizens on Tuesday evening at a ceremony held at Portland’s Ocean Gateway. The newly naturalized citizens originated from 30 countries, including Australia, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Kazakstan, Kenya, Poland, Somolia, and the United Kingdom. They came from all over Maine — as far as Millinocket and as nearby as South Portland — to declare, as part of the Oath of Allegiance, “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.”
According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services office, more than 18,000 people will become US citizens at about 180 ceremonies across the country this week; USCIS naturalizes an average of 680,000 people every year. September 17 is recognized in this country as a joint (if undercelebrated) holiday: Constitution Day (established by Congress in 2004) and Citizenship Day (formalized by president Harry Truman in 1952).
In order to be eligible for citizenship, applicants must be at least 18 years old, hold a green card, have resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years, “be a person of good moral character,” be able to speak, read, write, and understand English, and have a working knowledge of US government and history.
To demonstrate their competence in English, applicants are asked during an in-person interview to read and write one of three sentences “in a manner suggesting to the USCIS officer that you understand the meaning of the sentence.”
The civics test is administered orally and applicants must answer six out of 10 questions correctly in order to pass. USCIS officers have 100 civics questions to choose from, and all are available online for applicants to study in advance. Curious if you’d pass? Here’s a selection of the queries — you may be surprised to find yourself stumped (find answers at the bottom of the page):
1) How many amendments does the Constitution have?
2) The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
3) Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?
4) Why did the colonists fight the British?
5) The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the US Constitution. Name one of the writers.
6) What did Susan B. Anthony do?
7) Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
8) Name one American Indian tribe in the United States.
9) Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.
10) Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
For a modern take on the new citizens’ experience, sign onto Twitter and follow the hashtag #newUScitizen.
Meanwhile, where Congress was once on the brink of passing a long-overdue immigration reform bill, it now seems to have moved on to other priorities such as Syria, the debt ceiling, and the looming roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. In June, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration overhaul that would create a 13-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States, beef up border protection, and establish new rules for foreign-born workers, including visa programs for lower-skilled and agricultural workers. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate’s bill could cut the deficit by more than $150 billion over 10 years.