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By Charles F. Bahmueller
A Formal Process for Adding Membership
The Prudential Argument
The History and Civics Test
Proposals in the recent past to reform the naturalization process and efforts by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to respond to them have brought into question whether the United States should alter its policy of requiring applicants for citizenship to pass a history and civics test. Several years ago, the INS hired PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm, to devise new, modernized procedures for the naturalization process. Part of the process for determining how to modernize the naturalization process has been consideration of whether the history and civics requirement and the current testing procedure should be retained or discarded. If the requirement is to be retained, the further question arises of whether the current test should be retained or revised. This paper will focus on these two questions. To begin the discussion, I wish to present the reasoning that leads me to my position.
First: The American polity is governed by the idea of popular sovereignty, as indicated by the first words of the U.S. Constitution, "We the People of the United States," which means American citizens. The whole body of American citizens, and only citizens, constitute the sovereign American people. "Citizen," indeed, is often said to be an office of government analogous to any other, and, because the citizenry as a whole is sovereign, it is further said that, collectively, citizenship is the highest office in the land.
Second: Citizenship in the United States is membership in the political association that establishes and operates the American political system. Most scholars agree that citizenship is a form of membership, and if citizenship is membership, it must be membership in something. Going back to Aristotle (known as the philosopher of citizenship) this "something" can be described as a kind of association. Many democracies have conceived of themselves as having been established by an association to which all citizens belong.
Third: The citizens of a constitutional democracy are rightly said to own their government. It is theirs, and theirs alone. Its legitimacy rests solely on their consent; they continuously authorize the constitutional framework on which its authority rests. Citizens can alter or abolish their government through prescribed methods, or they can maintain it as it is. Since government is wholly theirs, and the association that authorizes it is composed only of themselves, they and only they have the right to make whatever rules they wish regarding the addition of new members. Unless such an association is conceived as having established the democratic political order, it is hard to make sense of a political order in which the whole body of citizens is considered sovereign, as it is in democracies.
The polities that we call democratic states have been described as being either like voluntary associations or like families. To a degree, no doubt, they partake of both analogies, depending on what aspect is being considered. States have often considered nationality an affair of blood relationship. The United States is decidedly not such a state, since we add members from any ethnic background. That is why the United States is often described as having adopted a "cosmopolitan" idea of citizenship. New members can be accepted or rejected, but no one who is not a natural‑born citizen automatically assumes membership.
Fourth: The individual citizen is the heart and foundation of the American political system. The American polity exists for the benefit of its members, who bind themselves to it and give it their support, receiving in return certain benefits, which we collectively call their rights. Authority, in the American view, exists for the protection of these rights. Contrary to what some writers pretend, however, it is an illusion to suppose that because citizens and legal aliens share many of these rights, they are nearly identical. On the contrary, resident aliens are not "almost citizens," any more than a couple courting are "almost spouses."
It is not simply the quantity of rights that is relevant; more to the point is the qualitative difference between the rights of citizens and aliens. The difference between having and not having the right to participate in self‑government by voting and holding office and by serving on juries (a significant aspect of self‑government) is not just a few "extra" rights amongst a larger panoply. They constitute a qualitative difference between citizens and aliens that sets them apart fundamentally.
Fifth: The sovereign American people (as in other democracies) prescribe rules for membership in their association through their political representatives. In one way or another, the American people have been doing this since the country was founded. The process of adding members through specified procedures is basic and fundamental to our democratic process. If anyone resident in the country could vote in elections, aliens including illegal aliens, who easily obtain false identification could hijack American democracy simply by showing up at the polls. Thus if the system of specifying membership rules goes out of control, the people effectively lose their sovereignty, and the theory of American democracy becomes gibberish.
A Formal Process for Adding Membership
It follows that the American people need a formal process legally mandated by the people through their representatives for adding membership. This process is, of course, "naturalization." Clearly, widespread agreement among American citizens is required before any fundamental change can legitimately be made in the qualifications for citizenship and the process of deciding who qualifies for citizenship. In consequence, it is not legitimate to resort to the courts, for example, or to administrative changes to alter the substance of naturalization rules against popular sentiment and, as it were, behind the people's backs.
Therefore, practicing or attempting to practice what may be called the "cattle chute" theory of democracy cannot be justified. According to this "theory," it is legitimate to round up large numbers of people, brand them citizens as fast as humanly possible, and then attempt to run them like herds through the voting turnstiles like cattle through chutes trusting that most of them will vote your way. Never mind that large numbers may be criminals, undesirables, illegals, or otherwise unqualified when these facts come to light, just say you're sorry.
This is the disgraceful procedure that took place in 1995‑96. Some 180,000 aliens were herded through the citizenship chutes with no background checks. The INS was pressured by the White House and the vice president's office to create one million new citizens before election day as if it were morally legitimate to use the federal government as an old‑time big‑city political machine for electoral profit behavior excused because ostensibly it broke no laws.
But this did break faith with the American people. According to one intimately involved federal official, "The president was interested in naturalization because he thought this group would vote mostly for him" a flat contradiction of a later White House statement that the INS program was "not to further any inappropriate political end."1 What this episode shows is that those responsible for this action do not take democracy seriously. What they take seriously is winning election
The principal purpose of the naturalization process, in my view, should be conceived as binding prospective citizens to their new country and preparing them for citizenship. To accomplish this, applicants need to know what America is all about, what it means to be an American, who we are, and where we came from not so much in an ethnic sense as in an ideological and spiritual sense. They need to learn the high points of our constitutional history what the milestones are that mark out the main stages of the American regime, from its 18th-century origins to the consolidated 21st-century democracy that we have become. Learning this basic story and its most salient underlying principles of government is how merely formal consent becomes the deeper commitment of reasoned and informed consent.
There is further reason why newcomers to American citizenship need to know the basic American creed. It is a fair generalization, I believe, that our people are willing to accept as fellow Americans and therefore as citizens only those who have a commitment to the U.S. Constitution and a commitment to the most basic values and principles of liberal democracy as practiced in this country. Newcomers cannot properly make a commitment without having minimal understanding of what is involved. Citizens will learn over course of time whether or not the naturalization process is a sham. From this knowledge, they can also confidently be expected to make appropriate judgments about both their democracy and its new members. Thus the presence or absence of democratic integrity in the process of creating new citizens has potentially profound consequences for the future of American democracy. And so, finally, the answer to the question whether we should get rid of history and civics requirements is, of course not.
A related issue is the proposal that the United States offer automatic citizenship to legal resident aliens after a minimum residence period, such as five years. If the nation adopted this policy, it would, of course, scrap the history and civics requirement.
But automatic citizenship is objectionable on a number of grounds. First, with automatic citizenship, there would be no systematic method of ensuring that prospective citizens are acquainted with the fundamental values and principles of American democracy; there would be no means of ensuring that new citizens know what America is about or that they learn of the richness of citizenship; and there would be no systematic process of attempting to bond the immigrant to the American political system and to the American people as a whole. One must bear in mind that nearly all applicants for American citizenship come from either authoritarian states or countries where democracy is barely underway. Few individuals from the nations from which most new arrivals to our shores currently arrive unless they are among a tiny number of elite scholars have anything like a grasp of the character of liberal democracy (or any other form of democracy), still less American democracy.
Besides these salient facts, the idea of automatic citizenship runs counter to at least two other important arguments. One may be called the moral argument; the other, the prudential argument. According to the moral argument, the serious obligations of memberships are generated only by express consent, not by tacit consent alone. And "express consent" means participating in a formal process, making a formal promise, just as people must do to get married or join a religion.
In opposition to this view, Joseph Carens argues in his paper for this conference that, after the passage of sufficient time, social "membership" entitles aliens to receive the same legal rights as citizens. "My claim," he writes, "is that residents are members." This is not quite automatic citizenship, but it amounts to the same thing, since Carens quite intentionally (and enthusiastically) effectively obliterates the distinction between citizens and aliens. He argues that automatically gaining the rights of citizenship in this manner is fully justified, indeed demanded, because liberal democracy exists "for the sake of the members of society," and the fundamental interests of a minority should not be sacrificed to the majority's advantage. In his article, "Why Naturalization Should be Easy," in the 1998 book Immigration and Citizenship in the 21st Century, Carens states, "What makes a person a member of society with these kinds of claims against the state cannot depend on the state's own categories and practices. It depends instead on social facts." (Emphasis added.) Although this argument is superficially cogent, upon examination it proves to be hollow.
In the first place, it is an abuse of classical liberal theory to treat "society" in this manner. While in the liberal view society is indeed considered to have established government as its servant, once society organizes itself politically, it acts through its government to safeguard its rights and interests. That is the whole point of setting up a government! Among these interests is the integrity of the political order, including political membership. It is not "the state's own categories and practices" not the state as an entity separate from society that determine whether living in a society for a period of time constitutes political membership. Rather, in an effective democracy at least, it is politically organized society that decides citizens decide, acting through their representatives. It is hardly reasonable to assume that "society" organizes itself politically in order to be bamboozled out of its capacity to make collective decisions bamboozled out of its capacity for self‑direction by the waving of theoretical wands by ivory tower intellectuals.
Moreover, once society is politically organized, until such time as it is dissatisfied with its system of government, it has given up its right for independent, self‑sufficient rule against its polity's legal framework. By the freely given consent of the citizenry, society's freedom and autonomy is limited by that legal framework. And that framework authoritatively prescribes the naturalization process for political membership through law not through extra‑legal informalities, as Carens proposes. In the United States today, aliens have multitudes of rights; to claim they have a moral right to political membership against the wishes of a majority of citizens mocks the very idea of democracy. For no democracy can direct its fate once it abandons its right to set membership rules through law. As already suggested, the collapse of this right entails the collapse of popular sovereignty, and with it the theory of American democracy.
To see how the crucial subject of how membership is established is treated by classical liberal theory, we must turn its original home in John Locke's econd TreatiseThere, the chief theorist of the American Revolution extensively discusses the question of how political membership is acquired. Specifically, he inquires whether living in society of itself creates full membership. He asks if the tacit consent to a country's laws implied by living in a society is sufficient to establish full membership, or whether express consent is required. His answer is unambiguous: "...[S]ubmitting to the laws of any country, living quietly and enjoying privileges and protection under them, makes not a man a member of that society." He continues:
And thus we see that foreigners, by living all their lives under another government, and enjoying the privileges and protection of it...i>do not thereby come to be subjects or members of that commonwealth. Nothing can make any man so but his actually entering into it by positive engagement and express promise and compact. (Emphasis added.)
In other words, to return to the question, "Why require aliens to undergo naturalization?" Carens answers that we should not because, in his view, it may inconvenience them. Some countries might have such draconian laws that these people might not be able to inherit relatives' estates or return home to care for aged parents. Carens never suggests that such a small minority might be granted a dispensation of some sort. Protecting them is not really the point. Rather, he uses the inconvenience and hardship argument as the thin end of the wedge to end the distinction between aliens and citizens among the vast majority of aliens who have no such "inconveniences."
Most important, Carens gives little heed to the "inconvenience," or, rather, to the catastrophic damage that might potentially be done to the civic culture of American democracy by the policy he proposes. For what would large numbers of citizens think of their democracy if non‑citizens were automatically given the same rights as citizens‑-if citizenship were thus devalued? The case is no different from automatic citizenship, since here the distinction between citizen and alien is a distinction without a difference. And one can confidently predict that many of these new "citizens" would be illegal entrants who have been amnestied.
It might have occurred to Carens, had he attended to the common good of American democracy and not solely to one particular interest, that many Americans might feel their democracy had been hijacked. They might see citizenship as effectively wrested from their hands and watered down, since after a time citizenship effectively would become the property of everyone who manages to set foot in the country. Once such a disillusioning process has set in, its negative consequences are incalculable. But for our bien pensant theorists, such consequences are not their department.
The Prudential Argument
Turning to the prudential argument, immigrants are liable to live among others like themselves with only minimal exposure to American civic culture. This is especially true if they do not learn English. Thus it would be imprudent simply to leave them in place and grant them citizenship automatically: How could they possibly be expected to know what immigrants need to know to consent to our system, to perform the minimum functions of citizenship, such as voting and serving in juries, and be induced to learn sufficient English to be accepted as Americans by the majority? Could they be expected to learn even the most skeletal version of the American story?
Those who make such potentially destructive and outlandish proposals as "automatic citizenship" in their haste to bestow the security and welfare state benefits of membership can hardly be considered to take American citizenship seriously. This means they fail to take democracy seriously and so would we as a nation if we did not require prospective citizens to know something of the character of American democracy and its historical development and to commit themselves formally to our constitutional order.
One might even say that the adoption of automatic citizenship would signal that American democracy had completed its atrophy from the republican features of its origin to an imperial stage, much as the end of Rome's republican period was marked by the blanket bestowal of its greatest prize Roman citizenship. Already certain aspects of our society, especially the decline of civic engagement, are reminiscent of the conditions remarked upon by Juvenal, the second-century Roman poet. Juvenal famously said that during Rome's republican period citizens discussed public affairs; but, all they care for now, he noted, is "panem et circenses" bread and circuses or, in today's terms, welfare state benefits and entertainment. Automatic citizenship could not help but hasten and deepen the process of withdrawal of Americans from civic life, since the devaluation of citizenship would be open and undisguised.
As opposed to the civically and morally bankrupt suggestion of automatic American citizenship, what a formal process of naturalization should be designed to do is to extract immigrants psychologically from their provincial settings often ethnic enclaves to remove them from everyday society and prepare them for formal political membership. Such a process should be designed to create an experience qualitatively distinct from mere informal social membership.
In other words, the purpose of naturalization, as the word suggests, is to Americanize immigrants that is, to guide them through a procedure of gradual civic assimilation in which basic values, principles, and historical events are internalized. The result, we hope, is that prospective citizens will come to love and identify themselves with their new country. If some democracies are unconcerned with civic assimilation (though a number are concerned), that is their business. Americans are so concerned, and that is our business a business we have been carrying on for many decades.
Now, we have heard it said that because we do not require native-born citizens to assimilate this knowledge, we should not require it of immigrants either. But, in the first place, we should require our youth to become Americanized, just as much as other prospective citizens, which is what minority status amounts to. In practice, of course, many of our young people get little or no effective civic education. So what this argument amounts to is the view that since we do such a lousy job of educating our youth for citizenship, we should make sure that we do an equally lousy job of educating prospective citizens for civic membership. Such arguments do not make for good public policy.
We might also consider that if people must do anything to earn citizenship, many of them will value it as little more than a source of welfare state benefits. But financial dependence is a far cry from civic membership. Instead of a citizen state, we get a client state. For these reasons, I believe that the answer to whether we should grant automatic citizenship is no.
The History and Civics Test
I come now to the history and civics test. In my view, the current test is practically meaningless. Here, for example, are the opening items of the 100 questions from which INS officials choose in administering the test to the applicant:
- What are the colors of our flag?
- How many stars are there in our flag?
- What colors are the stars on our flag?
- What do the stars on the flag mean?
- How many stripes are there on the flag?
- What color are the stripes?
- What do the stripes on the flag mean?
It goes without saying that prospective citizens should know the colors of the flag; the point is that the test should induce them to raise themselves above the level of such mundane trivia.
The test items are trivial, but the INS makes up for this by providing unreliable answers. Thus the answer to "Independence from whom?" is given as "England," which is wrong. The correct answer, "Great Britain," is suggested by a source with which one might reasonably expect the INS to be familiar, namely the Declaration of Independence, which refers to "the King of Great‑Britain" and "our British Brethren," not "England," which neither then nor now was an independent country. More significant is the prescribed answer to "What are the duties of Congress," which is given as "to make laws." The U.S. Constitution, however, allots a number of other important powers to one or both houses of the Congress that are parts of its duties for example, the Senate must ratify treaties and pass on a variety of presidential appointments. It also tries officials impeached by the House. But since the test (it would be an extravagance to call it an "examination") remains at a level lower than any game of Trivial Pursuit, such criticisms are mere carping.
In truth, the test is a national disgrace, as even those who wish to scrap the history and civics test agree. For example, in a recent article in the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer, Peter Spiro is quoted as saying, "The current test is, in my view, pretty much a joke. It's really equivalent to the test you take to get a driver's learner's permit." Not only does the meaninglessness of the items belittle the richness of the American experience, the questions and answers are all conveniently found on the INS site on the Internet, so that all anyone has to do is look up the answers and memorize them.
So today, the knowledge qualifications for American citizenship consist of being able to memorize red, white, and blue, Alaska and Hawaii, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and a few other things including everyone's favorite, "Name one benefit of American citizenship," to which the first answer is "government jobs."
Once again, what all of this means is that as a nation we are not taking seriously either citizenship or civic assimilation. To remedy this state of affairs, we should revise the test in accordance with the purpose of the naturalization process, which is the voluntary induction of the applicant into American civic culture. As Noah Pickus says in his article, "To Make Natural: Creating Citizens for the Twenty‑First Century," in Immigration and Citizenship in the 21st Century: It should be "a process that fosters commitment and learning." Among those who wish to retain the test (and in the absence of evidence to the contrary this can safely be assumed to include the overwhelming majority of the American people), there is a consensus that the test should be made more meaningful.
In calling for a more "meaningful" test, I do not mean to imply that it should be exclusionary. Most applicants would pass the sort of test I am advocating. Still, prospective citizens would have to study to pass it; they world have to learn something. It would not be "pretty much a joke."
Moreover, in thinking of what a future history/civics test might look like, we should apply what we know about certain well‑known educational problems in this country. Specifically, we should recall the well‑known consequences of low educational expectations‑-that low standards for achievement lead to low performance. But it is equally well known that our students usually can learn considerably more if more is required. This lesson should be applied to the naturalization test.
A reasonable proposal might be that the test be calibrated to somewhere around the fourth- or fifth-grade level at about the achievement level expected by the Center for Civic Education's elementary school text on the U.S. Constitution. A similar level of expectation is the fourth-grade standard of the National Standards for Civics and Government. I also endorse a proposal by Noah Pickus that fundamental documents of American democracy should play a central role in preparation for the test and that at citizenship swearing‑in ceremonies, immigrants should be given copies of the U.S. Constitution to accompany the flags they already receive.
I confess, however, that I am uneasy in suggesting a specific elementary school grade level for preparation for the test. Perhaps a middle-school or 8th-grade level is more appropriate or perhaps we should look to what was required at earlier times in the 20th century.
My unease is caused by a lively sense that in the last two decades our naturalization process has in so many ways been dumbed down, degraded, and corrupted that no one should easily assent to lower standards than applied in the recent past, prior to the changes of the 1980s and 1990s. In this regard, Georgie Anne Geyer's account of the degradation and corruption of the naturalization process in her 1996 book, Americans No More, is compelling testimony. Since 1990, when President Bush signed a number of "reforms" into law, for example, attendance at the citizenship induction ceremony is no longer mandatory. Moreover, until recently, at the applicant's option, the test was given by an immigrant advocacy group, not by the INS, a circumstance that led to widespread fraud. And these are but two examples among many others.
A principal conclusion one reaches after reviewing the evidence Geyer painstakingly presents is this: The testing process must never again be placed in the hands of immigrant advocacy groups testing must be out of private hands entirely.
How should the test be changed? Here is one example of the kind of question that would make the test meaningful: As it now stands, the test asks what the three branches of government are. A meaningful learning process would require that the applicant understand why there is a separation of powers and also why the separation is not complete, which is to say, why there is a system of checks and balances. The reason, as every American citizen ought to know from the Federalist Papers, is that the Constitution's framers feared that concentrated power would be abused.
Another example of how the test's questions could be recast to make it meaningful would be for applicants to be required to know not only that Americans believe in "constitutional government" (a fact not presently required), but also that they understand that constitutional government in the American lexicon means limited government. They should grasp, moreover, why Americans believe in limited government to protect the rights of the individual.
A further example along the same lines is that American citizens (as well as applicants for naturalization) should understand that the courts' power to nullify laws on constitutional grounds ("judicial review") serves the idea of limited government that the powers of government should be limited to those allowed by the Constitution. Indeed, applicants should see how this principle is reflected throughout the Constitution in the principle of federalism, for example, which divides power and affords citizens multiple points at which to influence government. These are not intrinsically difficult ideas, and those skilled in writing for an elementary school reading level can make them intelligible to adult readers whose reading skills are at that level.
All of this is to say that more should be more required of this process of internalizing the essential values and principles of American democracy than sheer rote memorization, for memorization of itself does not require anyone to understand anything. This argument also means there is a compelling need for a well‑constructed citizenship study book. After all, when all is said and done, the test has little significance in itself. It has merely a policing function, inducing applicants to put themselves through a learning process designed to effect internal change. Thus, to repeat, such a test would be a more meaningful exercise; testing specialists know how to calibrate tests to the correct level of difficulty, so that most applicants can pass if they study. If applicants for whatever reason fail to study for the test, however, we must say frankly that they ought to flunk. After all, failing the test does not result in revoking their green card; it is not as if they would be deported.
"Processing" People vs. Patriotism
One of the greatest, and potentially very costly mistakes the nation is currently making in naturalization is seeing it primarily in terms of processing people. There is much talk of "the backlog" and how to reduce it quickly and efficiently, as if this is the most significant issue facing us regarding naturalization. It is not. A certain amount of waiting may be required if our democracy is to avoid further corruption. The public good, even at the expense of private inconvenience, should be paramount in this instance. There is no universal human right to American citizenship that is being injured by the existence of a backlog. The wait required is no more a crucial issue facing us regarding the naturalization process than is the "undocumented" status of millions of illegal aliens. If it were, these problems could be easily solved by the provision of appropriate documents. In the latter case, the Border Patrol could simply leave caches of required documents at convenient locations in the desert for pickup by incoming undocumented immigrants. In the former case, citizenship documents could simply be mailed to everyone presently waiting.
Since such a policy is precisely what not a few "immigrant advocates," would prefer, we must ask why, exactly, this "solution" would be deeply destructive of our polity. Such questioning would force us to grasp what this destruction consists in. We would be required to think about what our democracy is, instead of taking it for granted as we now so complacently do. We would find ourselves obliged to consider the place of membership requirements and the means of fulfilling them in a democratic order. From "Americans no more," we would become civically engaged Americans once again. We might start by acquiring some civic education ourselves, since most of us missed it in school and have been grossly mis-educated by the great cynical school of worldly experience.
In considering this key part of the naturalization process, I would also like to identify with the position articulated by Noah Pickus, which holds that there needs be an "emotional element" in citizenship if citizens are really to become bound to their new country. This "emotional" element is, of course, some form of bonding and attachment to the new patria, some form of patriotism.
Some academics today argue that patriotism can, and should, consist exclusively in attachment and loyalty to American constitutional values and principles. While I believe that such an attachment is a vital, essential part of patriotism, this hardly constitutes a sufficient concept. Such patriotism would essentially be bloodless and ethereal radically incomplete. Patriotism literally means, "love of country," and any adequate idea of it entails an emotional attachment of the patriot to the land and the people, to his or her country's history and traditions, mores and customs to what Lincoln described in his first inaugural address as "the mystic cords of memory, stretching from every battle‑field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land." Such an attachment does not imply an uncritical acceptance of the nation's faults and historical sins; it means an affirmation of the nation in spite of, and in full knowledge of, such flaws.
It goes without saying that development of such an emotional element cannot be tested for. The applicant must go through a process of effort and educational attainment that holds the promise of helping create this sense of attachment to the new country.
Last, prior to taking the oath of allegiance, the prospective citizen should carefully study the oath. Precisely because its vocabulary may be strange to those swearing it, each element of the oath must be understood. Swearing this oath is not a mere "formality." On the contrary, it is a solemn act of voluntary obligation, binding new citizens to their new country. Such a key transformational act in the moral and civic life of the individual must be treated with corresponding seriousness.
Thus far we have not yet considered the history portion of the requirements for naturalization. We must not repeat the sorry episode of 1993, when publication of U.S. and world history standards for education in the schools called forth a loud chorus of stinging rebuke from the public, culminating in the standards' condemnation by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 99‑1.
The history standards seemed to legions of critics, most of them outside the academy, a blatant attempt to hijack American history and indoctrinate the next generation of American youth with a tendentious and nearly unremittingly negative rendering of the American story. From this episode we should conclude that no segment of society is sole custodian and interpreter of our history; no one in particular but rather everyone in general "owns" the story of the American past, which forms our common inheritance. Accordingly, a new history and civics test must respect the overarching criterion that it be calibrated to remain within the mainstream of American thinking.
Finally, immigrants must learn English if they are to be empowered as citizens. In a free country, people may speak any language they please, but we must have a common language or immigrants cannot move out of their provincial society into the wide world of American society at large, with all the benefits and opportunities implied by this further act of migration.
Without a common language, immigrant communities will remain separate, and the United States will become what Samuel Huntington has termed a "cleft society," with all the attending conflicts and dangers of deep‑seated division, whose consequences around the world should stand for us as warning sentinels.
1 "Program Cited for Poor Check on Citizenship," New York Times, August 1, 2000. The article describes a scathing report issued by the U.S. Department of Justice's Inspector General "detailing the litany of errors committed by the [INS] as it rushed to naturalize one million citizens in 1995 and 1996." The agency sought to complete the operation, called "Citizenship USA," by September 30, 1996, so that the new citizens could register to vote for the presidential election in November. The Inspector General's report states, "Many INS employees questioned the legitimacy of [Citizenship USA] because they suspected it grew out of partisan purposes." All but the few political appointees among the INS staff are, of course, protected by civil service laws from dismissal for making politically heterodox remarks.
Charles Bahmueller has served as director of special projects at the Center for Civic Education since 1986. He has been the author or editor of a number of books and articles examining the fields of political science, the history of ideas, and civic education, including CIVITAS: A Framework for Civic Education (1991), which is used in more than 35 countries. Bahmueller also served as a principal researcher and writer for the National Standards for Civics and Government, published in 1994.
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