Legal immigrants are already required to know about American principles and history than native-born Americans can bother themselves to learn. Now, they will be even further ahead of us:
For the first time in two decades, the U.S. citizenship test has been revamped—and the new version, which will be unveiled this week for use starting Oct. 1, 2008, will mark a profound shift in what it takes to become an American. Gone are many of the old trivia-style questions such as "How many stripes are on the American flag?" They've been replaced by queries that focus on concepts rather than facts—for instance, "Why does the flag have 13 stripes?" The new test, 10 years in the making at a price tag of $6.5 million, will also cover subjects such as "checks and balances," "inalienable rights" and other constitutional ideas.
Driving the change is the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services, which wants to create "patriots" and not just naturalized residents out of the more than 500,000 immigrants who become citizens each year. "What's at stake is really the survival of our democracy," says Alfonso Aguilar, head of the Office of Citizenship. "If we don't strengthen our assimilation efforts, then 20 or 30 years down the road we may have a dysfunctional society."
If we get the right kind of people -- those who want to assimilate because they share American values -- then it shouldn't matter where they come from or (up to a certain point) how many there are. So, fine, make them know more than we do, but let's stop being so stingy with the quotas.
While, of course, doing something about illegal immigration, which is the real source of our assmilation problems and the threat to the American identity. In a way, we're making the immigrants who try to do it the right way pay for our lack of willingness to deal with those who do it the wrong way.