Library helps make citizenship happen

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Whether their motivation was to get a better chance at a job or to gain the right to vote, their goal was the same: to become U.S. citizens.

A handful of people arrived at the Mountlake Terrace Library last month to study the questions they’ll be asked during the U.S. citizenship test. Their native homes ranged from Panama to the Philippines to neighboring Canada.

The Mountlake Terrace Library, located at 23300 58th Ave. W, offers a free citizenship class for people getting ready to or already are scheduled to take the citizenship test. Class meets weekly for five weeks. While there are multiple steps to become a citizen, including an interview and English proficiency test, the class focuses solely on preparing students for the test on U.S. history and civics. People who take the test are required to answer 10 questions selected from a pool of 100 questions.

“The questions we cover in here, probably 90 percent of American citizens would fail,” volunteer instructor Chuck Brewer said.

Many of the students have lived in the United States for a long time and have now decided to become citizens. This year’s presidential election also could be motivation for some to become citizens, Brewer said.

Between seven and 15 people sign up for each session.

“Everybody is very motivated,” he said.

People have come back to express their thanks after passing the exam.

“We’ve had students come back waving American flags,” said Rosy Brewer, managing librarian at the branch and Chuck Brewer’s wife.

Alejandro Perez, originally from Mexico City, moved to the area for work after living in Florida, Illinois and Texas. He’s taken courses at community colleges, including Edmonds, to improve his English. Becoming a citizen means a better chance at jobs and liberty, Perez said.

“There’s more opportunity for citizens,” he said.

Leni Santos left the Philippines a decade ago. She is one of nine children and one of the six living in the United States.

“All of my family are citizens now; I need to be one, too,” she said.

Santos has worked with her employer to arrange to have someone cover her work duties while she attends the class. The class helps alleviate her fears about the quiz portion of the test.

Santos’ goal is to become a citizen by the 10th year she’s lived in the United States.

“My son was the first in my immediate family to acquire citizenship. I’m proud of him,” she said.

The Mountlake Terrace branch began offering the class in 2009.

Since then, classes have been added at other Sno-Isle branches and were taken on by the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation.

“People don’t realize libraries do these things,” Rosy Brewer said. “There’s so much more going on in libraries than just books.”

Can you pass the test?

Here are 10 of the 100 possible questions that can be asked during one portion of the U.S. citizenship test. Would you pass?

1. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution?

2. The Federalist papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.

3. Name one U.S. territory.

4. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?

5. Who does a U.S. senator represent?

6. What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?

7. What is an amendment?

8. We elect a president for how many years?

9. What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?

10. What does the judicial branch do?

Answers:

1: Bill of Rights

2: James Madison, Alexander Hamilton

3: Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam

4: July 4, 1776

5: All the people of the state

6: Freedom of expression, speech, assembly and to petition the government, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms

7: A change to the Constitution/an addition to the Constitution

8: Four years

9: Checks and balances/Separation of powers

10: Reviews laws/explains laws/resolves disputes/decides if a law goes against the Constitution

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