I attended the Stakeholder Conference on Naturalization Test Redesign organized by the Office of Citizenship under the auspices of USCIS. The conference took place in Washington D.C. and gathered more than 120 representatives of the community-based organizations, immigration attorneys, and USCIS employees to discuss the proposed changes to the new naturalization test. Many people voiced concerns about the effect of the proposed changes on the ability of the elderly applicants to pass the naturalization test in a new format. Inna Arolovich was particularly troubled because she worked with Congressman Jerrod Nadler to introduce "Senior Citizenship Act - 2003" (H.R. 3123) to the House of Representative and knew firsthand how hard it was for the elderly to prepare and pass the naturalization test. "Senior Citizenship Act - 2003" aimed to exempt immigrants of 65 and older from demonstrating full command of the English language and to exempt immigrants of 75 and older from taking the naturalization test.
Inna approached me with an initiative to send a letter to Mr. Eduardo Aguirre, USCIS Director, and urge him to support following changes to Section 312 (b)(3) of the INA: 1)exempt applicants older than 65 years from the English test and allow their taking the test of the U.S. history and civics in their native language, and 2)exempt applicants older than 75 years old from both parts of the naturalization test (the English test and the test of the U.S. history and civics). The above changes did not aim to exempt these two categories of seniors from satisfying every other requirement for citizenship, e.g. demonstrating good moral character, taking an oath of allegiance, etc. I originally drafted a letter and the supporting fact sheet, but other people contributed their comments. Inna worked to obtain endorsements for the letter from as many organizations as possible. As a result, on March 26, 2004, 30 different organizations, including AILA and NYIC, signed and sent the letter to Mr. Eduardo Aguirre. I would like to offer the supporting fact sheet to Immigration Daily readers.
Zlata A. Dikaya, Esq.
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