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Washington Voices

Classes prepare those seeking U.S. citizenship

Thu., Dec. 6, 2012

How many amendments does the U.S. Constitution have? How many voting members are there in the U.S. House of Representatives? Who does a U.S. senator represent?

These are just three of 100 questions that are on the Naturalization Test to become a U.S. citizen. To pass, applicants are given 10 questions and must answer six correctly.

The road to citizenship can be daunting. You must have been a legal permanent resident for five years, you have to have entered the United States legally, you can’t have committed a crime and you have to have had all of your immunizations. The application for citizenship costs $680, although low-income immigrants can apply to have that fee waived.

World Relief Spokane is helping people navigate this road – for low-income legal residents, this can mean free classes about the history and government of the United States and helping them apply for an application fee waiver. They offer these classes in several locations throughout Spokane, and recently received a grant from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to expand these classes into Spokane Valley at Spokane Valley Partners, 10814 E. Broadway Ave.

The new classes are offered Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m.

World Relief Spokane Director Mark Kadel said some of the students are refugees, but not all of them. Many of them come to America looking for a better life.

“Just like our forefathers did,” he said.

With citizenship, individuals may vote and obtain a U.S. passport. If someone with children younger than 18 becomes a citizen, their children become citizens, too.

“Some say, ‘no other country wants us,’ ” said Debbie Johnson, Citizen and Naturalization Program Manager for World Relief. She said many of the refugees who come to America often try other countries first.

Terry Fogle is a part-time teacher for World Relief.

“A lot of people still believe in the American dream,” Fogle said. “We’re all really the same. We want a home, job, kids to have a good life.”

She said she learns something from every one of her students. They often share tales of their past and bits of their culture such as their food and songs.

“The singing is what tears my heart out,” Fogle said, honored they would share so much of themselves with her.

Students can continue taking the classes until they feel they have mastered the material.

Ana Mpawanayo has been living in America for five years and has been taking classes since last year at World Relief Spokane’s main office, 1522 N. Washington St.

“I just want to have a place where I belong,” she said through an interpreter. “I will be very happy to be a U.S. citizen. It looks like it will take a long time.”

And the answers to the questions at the beginning of the article? There are 27 amendments to the Constitution. There are 435 voting members of the House of Representatives. U.S. Senators represent all the people of their state.

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