Marco’s DAR learns how immigrants become citizens

Chris Curle
Special to the Eagle
Marco’s DAR welcomed Don Jarrell, of the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, who described how immigrants become citizens. From left, Susan Ediss, Joan Shields, Jarrell, Elinor Weiland, Betty Schuder and Janet Brooks.

“The sheer joy of belonging to a society they have worked so hard to join,” is how Donald Jarrell, of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, described the emotion at naturalization ceremonies where immigrants become U.S. citizens.

Coveted U.S. citizenship and how difficult it is to achieve was the subject of the Jan. 16 meeting of Marco Island’s Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Chapter meeting at the Island Country Club.

Donald Jarrell titled his talk “Immigration 101,” but it’s not an elementary undertaking.

Jarrell gave the members a condensed overview of what is involved in becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States. As he detailed, it is not a simple process to go from getting a green card to becoming a citizen at the oath ceremony.

Jarrell said that each day “lawful permanent residence is granted to approximately 2,100 people and more than 7,000 people are issued green cards.

“Most importantly,” he said, “almost 2,000 new citizens are welcomed to America at naturalization ceremonies.”

Immigrants applying for citizenship are given two chances to pass a citizenship test before they must restart the application process from scratch and pay the filing fee of at least $640 again. If they fail at their first interview, they must retake the civics exam at another interview between sixty and ninety days later.

The actual civics test is not a multiple-choice test. During the naturalization interview conducted in English, an immigration officer asks the applicant up to 10 questions from the list of 100 questions. The applicant must answer six of the ten questions to pass the civics test.

Here are some examples of the questions:

  • What is the supreme law of the land?
  • We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
  • Name one branch or part of the government.
  • What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
  • Who makes federal laws?
  • What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
  • How many U.S. Representatives are there?
  • Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?
  • Who was President during World War I?
  • What is the rule of law?
  • Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
  • Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.

Jarrell said he does not think that the questions are difficult to answer.  He said most people can easily answer them by studying, and plenty of study materials are provided.

“By far the most difficult aspect of the process, and for which most people are denied their application, is failing to speak and understand English.

“They aren’t required to have a perfect accent or perfect grasp of the English language, but they are expected to be able to understand the officer’s questions and respond meaningfully.”

A respected national poll recently found that 64 percent of American citizens would fail the test, even when given the questions in multiple-choice format.

 When asked about Florida’s move to require a citizenship course for high school graduation, Jarrell responded, “Just speaking for myself, and not as a government representative - my pay grade does not allow for an opinion! - I think it's a great idea. I believe every citizen should have a grasp of how our government and the political process works. It makes for a more informed voter and hopefully encourages people to get more involved in not just politics but their community.”

 Donald Jarrell has officiated at countless naturalization ceremonies and described what strikes him most.

 “When I act as the master of ceremonies, I'm always touched by the stories of how people came to the U.S. and how hard they worked to achieve becoming a citizen, and how happy they are to finally become a full participant in our society.”

DAR has 180,000 members in 3,000 chapters worldwide.  Members are women 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot in the American Revolution.

Monthly luncheon meetings are at 10:30 a.m. on the third Thursday of each month. Members also meet casually between meetings, just for friendship and fun. Potential members and visitors from other chapters are welcome.  Please contact Pat Hancock, 319-530-5006

 To find out more about becoming a citizen of the United States, go