Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 21, 2018

Citizenship classes offered by Latino group

Oct 05, 2017
Oscar Hernandez, left, goes through some of the 100 immigration test questions with volunteer Karen Gorham Wednesday night as part of the Latinos For Washington Citizen Class.

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


The questions asked were standard for any U.S. high school student taking a basic civics class, but for the people who came to the Washington Public Library to review the questions, the answers could mean the difference between being granted citizenship and having to wait longer.

Latinos For Washington held its first U.S. Citizen class Wednesday night, in which candidates for citizenship were drilled with the questions they would be asked during the actual test that would be given during the naturalization interview.

Candidates are given 10 of the 100 questions at random and must answer six right. The test consists of civics, reading and writing.

During the mock tests, candidate Oscar Hernandez drilled the questions with volunteer questioner Karen Gorham, hoping for a high score.

“It’s different from other things,” he said, of preparing to become a U.S. citizen. “It is emotional to become part of this country.”

Hernandez said he has lived in the United States for 24 years and has had to renew his permanent residency registration — informally called a green card — every 10 years. He felt it was time to be come a citizen. He said he is very close to completing his requirements for citizenship. He believes before the end of the year he will be a U.S. citizen.

Gorham, who has seen actual immigration tests in the past and has taught immigration classes in her home, said she is acting as an immigration official to give the test.

She said an important part of the drill is to act like an actual immigration official would act. She said part of the testing for her was to act solemn and not show her own personality or be encouraging in any way. She said this was the hardest part of volunteering to do the testing.

“My inclination is to be encouraging, but we aren’t supposed to do that,” she said. “We only ask the questions and they are supposed to answer.”

Some examples of questions include: “How does the Constitution begin?”“ what is the idea of self-government?” and “What did the Declaration of Independence do?”

incorrect answers, a failed test, or just forgetting something can result in the candidate having to wait another month until the next time the tests are given to try again.

Sonya Leyva of Latinos for Washington said the class is an extra hand to help the candidates prepare for citizenship and learn more about the U.S. The class also runs through what the candidates need to do to be able to know what steps they have to go through to even take the tests. She said the idea is to make sure the candidates are as prepared as they can be for the testing.

“They have to pay to apply,” she said. “We don’t want them to get there and not be able to answer the questions and start all over again.”

Leyva said she has volunteered for mock interviews in Columbus Junction and spoke of many of the challenges candidates face when taking the tests, including English not being the first language. She said people tend to learn better from their peers and like having someone to help then when they get stuck on an answer.

At the end of the class, several people got certificates showing they had completed the class.

Latinos for Washington will have another Citizen Class soon. For more information on Latinos for Washington events, call 319-214-0502 or check the Latinos for Washington Facebook page.

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