COMMONWEALnNo-FaultnCitizenshipnby Philip MarcusnThe United States has bestowednupon 3.1 million persons the newndesignation of “lawful” in place ofn”illegal aliens,” which is what they werencalled when they arrived in our midst.nThe Immigration Reform and ControlnAct of 1986 attempts to right ournmutual difficulty by putting these immigrantsnin line to become permanentnresident aliens or even citizens.nThe Immigration and NaturalizationnService (INS) has announced the regulationsnto govern Phase II of this process,nalready having enrolled them onnthe books. By October 1994, eithernthese persons will have taken the nextnstep toward permanent residence, or,nhaving failed to comply, will have beennsubjected to deportation proceedings.nThe key is preparing them to make thatnnext step forward or backward.nThe resident test partly determinesnthe future, and the INS has published anlist of 100 questions concerning Americannhistory and government, some selectednnumber of which must be passed,nin English. This test, and the regulationsngoverning the next phase in thenlife of our newest prospective Americans,nis a peculiar manifestation of ourn48/CHRONICLESnVITAL SIGNSntimes. Reflecting the compromise outnof which came the amnesty for thosenwho had jumped the line to enter thenU.S., these INS regulations mirror whatncitizenship means in the present Republic.nPrerequisite to taking the test annillegal must show evidence of continuingncapacity to provide for his materialnneeds as well as submit to an AIDS test.nWhat this exam, and the INS’s finalnregulations, may teach these prospectivencitizens is for us to ponder. It is at leastnodd to offer as a reward to these peoplenof self-evident determination qualificationnfor the swaddling clothes of thenunderclass. Yet that seems to be one ofnthe test’s chief lessons.nOf America’s history there is annamputated stump, though the myth ofnthe cherry tree is missing. Seven heroesnare identified. George Washington getsnthree references. Abraham Lincoln getsntwo, and there’s one each for ThomasnJefferson, Patrick Henry, Francis ScottnKey, Martin Luther King, Jr., and angeneric American Indian. Yankee historynit is, too, with the Mayflower andnPilgrims the only prologue to the Revolution.nThe hardest question may ben#82: “Name one purpose of the UnitednNations.” About the states only thenfirst thirteen and the last two admittednmatter, for those reasons. Facts aboutnthree wars must be known; that ournfirst was against England, that Lincolnnpresided over the Civil War to. “freenmany slaves,” and that in Wodd War IInour allies included the Soviets. Wenhave two holidays, the Fourth andnThanksgiving; Inaugurahon and federalnelection days are the other notablenevents on the calendar.nThe Constitution receives a decidedlyndemocratic reading. One questionnrequires its identification as the “supremenlaw of the land,” while two othernquestions detail the process and extentnof its amendment. There is nothingnabout the ideas of the Constitutionnbeyond stating that the “most important”nright is to vote (nothing is saidnabout taxes).nIn addition, one-fourth of the list isnphoney. Much of the required knowledgenis redundant; one question an­nnnswers another, as Queshons 9 and 10nillustrate: if the Fourth of July is IndependencenDay, what is July 4? Assumingnthe ACLU hasn’t banned the flag’sndisplay in federal offices, test takers withnthe wit to look at the flag can see answersnto the first eight questions.nEmbedded in Question 84 —n”Whose rights are guaranteed by thenConstitution?” — is a startling instancenof what used to be known as an “un-nAmerican” idea. The correct answer,nnow, is “everyone,” citizen and aliennalike. Before this recently invented doctrine,nthe Constitution disHnguished betweenncitizen and person, reserving toncitizens certain political rights the possessionnof which separates us from allnother people.nSo why become an American citizen?nThe traditional answer was tonexercise certain self-evident truths. Thennewly authorized answer (Questionn86) lists only: to get a government job,ntravel with the blue passport, or petihonnto bring relatives here.nWhat does this test teach? Thosenwho take it are already receiving onenreward for breaking the law; compliancenwill bring them more. We asknthem to learn some of the symbols ofnAmerican life while gaining experiencenin it. Whatever they may have learnednabout the American way of life whilenliving here, current law teaches themnthat they are part of a special group.nWith the “affirmative action state” beingnthe antithesis of traditional ideas ofnAmerican citizenship, this test implicitlynleads its students further down thatnroad.nAssimilation into our common culturenseems like thin gruel to those whonlearn the lessons of this test. In it and inntoday’s nation we plant seeds for a newncrop; will these new immigrants wither,nhyphenate, or grow up to be likenmost other Americans? Whatever happens,nwe should see now that we failnthem twice over as to the meaning ofnAmerican citizenship.nPhilip Marcus is a member of thenJ. William Fulbright ForeignnScholarships Board.n