Local Politics

Becoming a U.S. citizen means making the grade

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people pass a test on American history, government and culture to become United States citizens. Could you make the grade?

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DURHAM, N.C. — 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.

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.