With the Trump administration trying to ban travellers from several Muslim-majority countries from the US, the New-York Historical Society and museum is launching a new initiative to help green-card holders become US citizens.
The programme will include free workshops and classes, paired with displays and a scavenger hunt at the museum on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, all linked to questions on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalisation test – the final hurdle to citizenship.
“As far as we are aware, we are the first institution to develop a higher programme of on-site workshops using our object collection with the exclusive purpose of promoting citizenship for as many legal immigrants as possible,” said Louise Mirrer, the society’s president and chief executive.
About 13.1 million people across the US were green-card holders on January 1, 2013, and 8.8 million of them were eligible for naturalisation, according to the most recent figures from the US Department of Homeland Security.
The New-York Historical Society, founded in 1804, teamed up with the City University of New York to launch the initiative this summer, aiming to help the 1 million green-card holders in the metropolitan area.
Green-card holders have the right to live and work in the US. But they were originally included in President Donald Trump’s January executive order banning refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming to the US.
That executive order, which initially prompted chaos and confusion, and a revised version that removed green-card holders and Iraq off the banned list were blocked by US judges. But concern has remained high among immigrant communities, with a chief executive whose presidential campaign focussed on cracking down on illegal immigration.
“We decided the time (for the programme) was now,” Mirrer explained in a phone interview. “The demand for help in becoming a citizen on the part of green-card holders has ramped up hugely.”
To become citizens, green-card holders must pass an English literacy test and an oral government and history exam by correctly answering six of 10 questions from a total pool of 100.
Questions range from “What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?” to “What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?”
“These are things that Americans should know but most Americans do not,” said Mirrer. (For a practice version of the civics test, please see: here)
The society’s initiative will include a new gallery with interactive displays designed around the 100 questions. It is a model that other historical societies and museums could follow to help green-card holders and educate Americans.
“In an environment in which many legal immigrants are feeling concerned, we want to help them,” Mirrer said. “We deeply believe that immigration has been the bedrock of this country from the start.”