Local Politics

Becoming a U.S. citizen means making the grade

Posted January 22, 2010
Updated January 23, 2010

— More than 60 people shed their immigrant status and became full United States citizens at a naturalization ceremony in Durham Friday.

Since 2000, an average of 629,000 people became naturalized U.S. citizens annually. That number spiked to more than 1 million in 2008.

One part of the process of becoming a citizen involves a civics quiz. Applicants study 100 possible questions and are asked 10. They have to get six correct.

Durham naturalization_18 It's not easy to become a U.S. citizen

WRAL went to Chapel Hill, a college town, to see how many people could answer some of those questions. (Get the answers to these questions.)

Take a sample 10-question civics quiz.

First question: What is the supreme law of the land?

"I think it's the Golden Rule, that you should treat others like you want to be treated," citizen Maggie Boyd said.

"Wow, I'm not sure," citizen Rae Davis said.

Citizen Derek Epp came up with the answer: "The Constitution."

Second question: Name one U.S. territory.

"Oh, I don't know one," Boyd said.

Davis correctly named Puerto Rico, and Epp was also right with the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Third question: Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.

"In the United States? Wow, is the Mississippi long?" asked Davis. "OK, the Mississippi River."

Marie Garlock and Epp correctly answered the Mississippi River, as well.

Fourth question: "Before he was president, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?"

Boyd got this answer right: "World War II."

"(It's) probably stuff I should know, but I don't," she laughed.

"It's kind of challenging," Davis said. "It's stuff we should know, though."

About 90 percent of immigrants testing in the Raleigh-Durham field office pass the civics test the first time, said Jeffrey Sapko, field director for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Among those passing on the test on Friday was Joanne Phillips, who was originally from Canada.

"I'm trying to make a future here for my children," Phillips said. "I'm just glad I have the opportunity."

WRAL lead animation designer Shan Zhong also gained American citizenship Friday after working towards it for more than decade. He said he spoke very little English when he first arrived in the U.S.

"I think I'm living proof of the promised land," Zhong said. "It really is. Look at me today. I have this great job, and this is a great community.

"And –" He cut off, held up his certificate of citizenship and smiled.


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  • The Fox Jan 22, 2010

    We need to cut off all immigration until unemployed US citizens start going back to work.

  • mwerevu2002 Jan 22, 2010

    "50% of people have below average intelligence" You mean 49%. You proved your point!

    I think the average intelligence in the US is very high.Average intelligence compared to the rest of the world is likely over 50%. And most people are above that in the US.Problem is that people dont use because there is too much 'keeping up with the Joneses' that over rides most people's reasoning.

  • scientistjo Jan 22, 2010

    "50% of people have below average intelligence"

    You mean 49%. You proved your point!

  • time4real Jan 22, 2010

    he's given plenty of checks to Bev. haven't you got yours?

  • JAKOFALLTRADES Jan 22, 2010

    i agree with goose. did they have the option to take it in english or spanish?

  • mwerevu2002 Jan 22, 2010

    One needs to be able to pass this test AND a test on basic economics before being allowed to vote.

    As a naturalized American, am offended by this suggestion.Americans are the worst money managers in the world.Very wasteful, spoilt and buy 'stuff' they dont need.If anything, Americans need to learn how to appreciate money and resources more.Americans have nothing to teach immigrants regarding money.But America remains the BEST country in the world, generally and thats why we come and stay here.

  • darkhorse94 Jan 22, 2010

    If you dont learn history you, are doomed to repeat it! May I remind some of you that the Voting Rights Act was passed to combat the same type anti American ideas you folks are typing. Black Americans fought for years against disfranchisement. The old south was powered by corrupt police forces and the KKK to make sure black americans did not vote. Many people were beaten and killed for the right to vote. Are you insinuating that we go back to that? I am all for voter education, and I think every citizen should be allowed to vote. It is the responsibility of the individual to educate his/her self before voting. So rather than denying citizens the right to vote, lets work to educate them that vote blindly.
    Also, the Democrats and the President keep saying the immigration system is broken, but that is a slap in the face of those who studied to pass the tests to become citizens.

  • irishgirlsarepretty Jan 22, 2010

    I've always wanted to watch a citizenship ceremony.

    Welcome to the family, Shan!

  • Plenty Coups Jan 22, 2010

    Its not necessary to know Eisenhower was a general in WWII in and of itself, but it is basic US History which provides a background of knowledge for making informed decisions as a citizen. History teaches us what to do in the present. Eisenhower implemented a strategy of a broad front against the Germans which slowly led to their defeat.Some wanted a quick strike against Hitler to end the war quickly. Eisenhower promoted cooperation amongst our allies to help defeat the common enemy. He also created the interstate highway system after seeing the value of highways in moving armies and supplies across Europe. These are great lessons.

  • wbearp Jan 22, 2010

    Why bother to take the test? We encourage people to come and stay here illegally. Once here, you have full access to all the wonderful entitlement programs we have. At the same time, because you are not here legally, the Gov't doesn't know you exsist so you don't have to pay income tax, property tax, social security, etc, etc, etc. The WORST that will happen to you if you get caught is that you get a free trip home to visit your family!