When English language learners Maricela Barajas and Rosario Rodriguez recently took the naturalization test to become U.S. citizens, their minds were filled with notes about American democracy, citizen rights and responsibilities, U.S. history and geography. The 100 questions on the test are a challenge for even natural-born citizens.
Harris County Department of Education English language civics teacher Claudia Estrada worked with her two students from Mexico. The seasoned, five-year civics teacher affirms the difficulties of the process, but she always keeps the faith. Her students must learn basic English conversation, plus reading and writing skills while also studying the U.S. Constitution and history.
(Constitution Day honors the U.S. Constitution each September and recognizes those who have become U.S. citizens by age or naturalization. To test your knowledge of questions in the U.S. naturalization test, take the practice test: https://my.uscis.gov/prep/test/civics .)
“Just do your best,” she said, urging the women to orally answer the questions and write the dictation.
The free, English language civics classes fill up quickly. To enroll, students must have a social security card and resident alien status.
Even though Estrada is bilingual, she will give limited instructions in Spanish. The half-hour oral practice time carved out during class is critical for mastery.
“You must take time to study,” she said, waving her hand to punctuate the importance of preparation. “You will have to answer the immigration officer.”
Adult learner Barajas, 30, lived in America for eight years before taking the citizenship challenge. She paid $725 for her citizenship application in 2017 and signed up for the class offered in Baytown through one of the 32 HCDE adult learning community sites. From January to May she worked through the curriculum. She continued in classes from September through December and passed the test.
On May 16, 2018, she was finally sworn in as a citizen through U.S. District Court.
The young mother of two says the best thing she learned was to read and write in English. She feels empowered to move forward and plans to attend cosmetology school.
Better than that, she inspired her 70-year-old mother to study and take the naturalization test.
“If I can do it, then she can do it,” Barajas said.
Rodriguez, 40, waited 22 years to become a citizen. She and her husband crossed over the Tijuana border in 1996.
Crime at the border terrified the young woman, but her biggest fear was being deported. Soon after entering the United State, the young couple obtained legal resident status.
With her new English skills, her citizenship and a new sense of self-confidence, Rodriguez’s next step is to investigate signing up for HCDE workforce classes to become a certified nursing assistant.
For information about free HCDE Adult Education classes in English language civics, English as a second language, GED or workforce training, go to www.hcde-texas.org/adulteducation or call 713-692-6216.