Latinos in the US will have to adapt their way of studying due to changes in the citizenship test

Latinos in the US will have to adapt their way of studying due to changes in the citizenship test

At the end of 2024, Latinos with permanent residence in the US who seek to obtain their citizenship will face a new exam that, according to experts, will force them to modify common study practices in order to pass the English speaking and civics sections.

The redesign proposal submitted by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could have an impact on the decision of Latinos to become or not in citizens.

“It will certainly have an effect at first. I think how the test is implemented and how they score will determine if there will be fewer people applying for citizenship… word will get out about how difficult it can be and that could have an impact over time,” he told the voice of america Kevin Appleby, acting executive director of the New York Center for Migration Studies (CMS) told Voice of America.

One of the changes USCIS is testing is asking applicants to look at three color photos, randomly selected from a pool of about 40 images that correspond to daily activities, weather or food. Applicants will receive a score on the ability to respond in English using simple vocabulary and phrases that are relevant to the image.

This, according to Appleby, would have the purpose of determining not only a person’s memory, but also whether someone can speak functionally. However, “can make it harderespecially for vulnerable immigrants – such as refugees, the disabled or the elderly – who might not have spent as much time learning English, or even those who are not as educated in their own language.”

Consequently, people should adjust to the new evaluation methods. “I think immigrants are resourceful and will adapt to anyone. It can be difficult at first, for sure, but I think they would find a way to learn that skill so they can become citizens,” Appleby added.

I think immigrants are resourceful and will adapt.”

USCIS justified the redesign trial as an “effort to better ensure that the conversation portion of the English language requirements is standardized and sufficiently assesses the ability to understand commonly used words.” The changes, according to the agency, also respond to comments received by “interested parties” about the structure of the test.

Elizabeth Jacobs, director of regulatory affairs and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, assured in written statements in December, when the intention to begin testing the changes was announced, that they “reduced the difficulty” of the exam by “abandoning formal questions” to “favor conversational topics.”

Even before the announcement of new requirements in the citizenship test, Osmel Barrera already had reservations. “I did not want to take the test even though I have been living as a resident for more than five years. I don’t know, I don’t feel safe and I don’t want to present myself and disapprove, ”he explained to the VOA the 39-year-old Cuban, who “still has a hard time” understanding and speaking with Native Americans. Residing in Miami, a city with a strong Hispanic presence, has meant that he does not have to depend on English to communicate.

Barrera’s wife, Yailín Pérez, did take her exam and pass it. Both are preparing a trip to Europe this fall and the “discomfort of traveling with different passports is a fact,” said Pérez, who already has a US document that opens doors to dozens of countries without the need for a visa, unlike his couple, who still have to request authorizations at the consulates of the nations they intend to enter.

“It is true that being a permanent resident makes it easier for you to travel with a Cuban passport, but still,” reflects Barrera. The barber by profession hopes, however, to present his application for naturalization before December, to avoid the new requirements.

Another who has not dared to speak “broken English” in front of a USCIS officer is 71-year-old Cuban Rolando Esquivel, who, despite living in Worcester, Massachusetts, for more than 20 years, confesses that he does not feel safe still in using “big words” in English. His social worker tried to help him complete an assessment to get him tested in his native language, but efforts have been delayed.

“For day to day it is one thing, but that interview intimidates me and that I do not understand anything when I am there. Now with the new requirements it will be even more difficult for me, ”he lamented to the VOA

On the contrary, Leyanis Márquez assures that she will study even more, but that she will not lose “the opportunity to be an American citizen for nothing.” This 35-year-old psychologist is only waiting for her five-year term as a resident to submit her application.

“I am sure that if I apply myself, I will achieve it, but I can understand that people are afraid, either because of their inability to articulate their thoughts in a foreign language, or because they are older, of failing the test. If now you put more requirements, of course, it is difficult, ”she indicated to the VOA News.

USCIS also set out to implement multiple-choice questions in the civics section, which tests your knowledge of US history and government, and currently only requires a person to provide answers to ten randomly asked questions from a group of 100. To pass, the applicant must answer at least six of them correctly.

Manuel Orozco, director of the migration, remittances, and development program at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, told the VOA that “where there is the most failure” when presenting the exam is in the civic section.

“It is important to increase the civic training of immigrants before taking the test, and at the same time identify alternatives to take that test. Pedagogically, multiple-choice tests increase anxiety in answer selection,” Orozco pointed out.

Applicants who do not pass one or both components of the citizenship test will have a fair chance of passing the part that they failed the first time. Data revealed by USCIS indicates that in 2022, 88.4% of people passed the exam on their first attempt, while 94.8% of applicants passed after being reexamined.

Could a new test create fear among Latinos?

Although experts assure that the testing stage of the changes is still early, in general, the evaluation “has characteristics of an obsolete requirement, of an additional price to the process of naturalization and belonging to a country,” said Orozco.

For this migration expert, the test -in general- hardly adds “pressure and stress” among Latinos eligible to naturalize.

“The changes will affect the Latino community in this way, adding the stress of fear of not knowing how to answer correctly and in English, in a country that does not have an official language,” he said.

Appleby, for his part, assured that he “does not believe” that Latinos “have something to fear” because they will only have to “prepare in a different way” or decide to take it again if the oral expression section fails.

“It’s not like you’re going to be penalized in any way. If you try, it might cost you more than one [intento] to do it, and that can be a burden for someone because you have to pay the citizenship application fees and that could hurt people. But it really remains to be seen how people will react to this,” Appleby added.

The proposed changes made by USCIS are in a “trial period” that will occur during a period of five months in 2023, and that will allow the agency to receive input from organizations and interested parties on the efficiency of the changes.

The citizenship test must change 15 years after its last modification, implemented in 2008.

For Appleby, the acting director of CMS, it is in the “interest” of the US “to have citizens who have been here as permanent residents” because “they are more capable of contributing their part, of being more part of our political system.”

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Written by Editor TLN

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