WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is making revisions to the naturalization test for the first time in a decade, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Friday.
The agency is focusing on changes to the civics portion of the test, though there could also be updates to the English section, according to a USCIS official.
The announcement comes amid a heated debate over who should be allowed in the country after President Donald Trump targeted progressive congresswomen, telling them to “go back” to where they came from. Three of the four women were born in the U.S. The other is a naturalized citizen.
As of March 2019, the overall national pass rate is 90%. In fiscal year 2018, nearly 757,000 people were naturalized, USCIS says.
The citizenship test, which immigrants must pass to become U.S. citizens, was last revised in 2009. It features 100 civics questions. Hopeful American citizens are asked up to 10 of these during an interview and have to answer six correctly to pass.
Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner, says the changes are not part of an effort to restrict success rates. “Isn’t everybody always paranoid that this is used for ulterior purposes?” Cuccinelli told The Washington Post. “Of course they’re going to be sorely disappointed when it just looks like another version of a civics exam. I mean that’s pretty much how it’s going to look.”
After a series of pilot programs, a new test is expected to be implemented in December 2020 or early 2021. Former acting USCIS director Francis Cissna initially announced the upcoming revision of the test in a May 3 memorandum. Cissna left the agency in late May in the wake of a shakeup at the Department of Homeland Security
According to the memo, the last revision, in 2009, “implemented standardized test forms for both the English and civics test requirements.”
The Trump administration has sought to crack down on legal and illegal immigration. And while it’s unclear what exactly the administration intends to change on the test, it appears to fall in line with the President’s agenda.
In a similar vein, Trump announced last week that he will seek citizenship information from agencies that already collect the data, and will not pursue placing a citizenship question on the 2020 census. The Supreme Court in June blocked the question from being added.