Newest citizens attest to nature of America

The Declaration of Independence — the adoption of which we celebrate this week — the Articles of Confederation and, later, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are just some of reasons this an exceptional nation.

There are those who would disagree. Yet we can think of nearly 7.5 million people who support that statement. That’s the number of people who have renounced citizenship in their home country and become new citizens of this one in just the past 10 years.

We’re adding more all the time. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services expects to welcome more than 14,000 new citizens during some 175 naturalization ceremonies being conducted between last Thursday and next Tuesday, including one set for Wednesday in Cleveland.

Getting to that point isn’t a given.

Before gaining citizenship, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services, immigrants must be permanent residents or green card-holders for at least five years in most cases; three years, if naturalizing through marriage. They also must be able to read, write and speak English.

Finally — before taking the oath of allegiance to the United States — they must pass a citizenship test. That test isn’t easy, states Citizenship and Immigration Services, but more than 97 percent of applicants pass; about two-thirds of voting age Americans can do so.

Citizenship and Immigration Services has a mobile app — USCIS: Civics Test Study Tools — to help would-be citizens prepare for the test. The app has a game to challenge your civics knowledge, and lists all 100 questions and answers that could be asked in the actual civics test.

If you have some spare time over the holiday, load the app and test yourself.

Is the U.S. exceptional? Today, in 18 locations across the nation, thousands of people will agree strongly enough to take an oath and become our newest citizens.