Thursday, January 31, 2013

From Cromwell to Kipling and Ennis, a new 'patriotic' test on Britain's culture for migrants

Migrants who hope to become British citizens will have to learn about 1066, Rudyard Kipling and Olympic hero Jessica Ennis under new citizenship tests, ministers said yesterday.

They will be examined on their knowledge of William the Conqueror, the Reformation and Oliver Cromwell in a reformed version of the tests that must be passed before qualifying for a passport.

But some names familiar to schoolchildren will be missed out of the tests developed by the Home Office.

While the Life in the UK handbooks praise Florence Nightingale as ‘the founder of modern nursing’, there is no mention of Mary Seacole, her Jamaican-born contemporary promoted over the past two decades as of equal importance.

The decision to omit Miss Seacole is the second indignity her reputation has suffered in a month. At the end of last year Education Secretary Michael Gove instructed she should no longer be part of the National Curriculum.

The handbook, to teach newly-arrived migrants ‘the values and principles at the heart of being British’, also contains no use of the word ‘multicultural’.

History exams will be introduced for those wanting to take out British citizenship in March, and the handbook they must study is available today.

The citizenship tests first brought in by Labour seven years ago contained no questions on history or the development of British culture, and instead concentrated on ensuring migrants had grasped practicalities like how to make a GP appointment or claim benefits.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said: ‘We have stripped out mundane information about water meters, how to find train timetables, and using the internet.’

People living in Britain should already be capable of using public transport, credit cards and coping with job interviews, the Home Office said. The history chapter demands knowledge of the Stone Age, the Wars of the Roses and the Glorious Revolution.

Politicians including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher are featured, alongside literary heroes and heroines.

Industrial pioneers are praised, although, oddly, the handbook has a section on Isambard Kingdom Brunel but does not mention he was the son of an immigrant.

Musical figures run from Henry Purcell to The Beatles and migrants are required to learn about literary figures from Geoffrey Chaucer, through Jane Austen to Wilfred Owen.

Those taking the test will also be expected to be familiar with details of sporting events including the Olympic Games and to know about sporting icons such as heptathlete Jessica Ennis.

Existing Life in the UK tests were taken by 150,000 people last year. At present it contains 24 multiple choice questions and candidates have 45 minutes to answer them. The pass mark is 75 per cent.


Marco Rubio: Obamacare Is an Obstacle in the Immigration Debate

Appearing Tuesday on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, Senator Marco Rubio said that the comprehensive immigration-reform deal he wants to reach with President Obama could be jeopardized if those made legal through a "path to citizenship" would be eligible for Obamacare.  As he put it: 
"If you are a lawfully present in the country but you are not a green-card holder, you do not qualify for any federal benefits. That's existing law. And so that means that the folks that are gonna be in this probationary stage that's in our principles, they don't qualify for any federal benefits except for one, Obamacare. Obamacare is the only federal benefit where you qualify for it, not because you have a green card but only because you're lawfully present. 

That needs to be resolved because if Obamacare is available to 11 million people, it blows a hole in our budget and makes this bill undoable. That's one of the major issues we're gonna have to confront.

Forget what existing law says, or whether or not Rubio has explained it correctly. The point is that the immigration negotiations unfolding in Washington are going to include the question of when, if ever, illegal immigrants covered in an amnesty would be eligible for the Affordable Care Act and subject to its mandate to purchase health insurance. Current legal immigrants will need to purchase health insurance in accordance with the mandate at the beginning of 2014. Says Sarah Kliff of Wonkblog, summing up what's at stake:
Undocumented workers are barred from federal subsidies and also exempt from the individual mandate .... Due to these constraints, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated about 7 to 8 million undocumented immigrants will remain uninsured under the Affordable Care Act.

If immigration reform were to shrink the undocumented population, or eliminate it altogether, new paths to coverage would open up, and that uninsured population would likely shrink. The Congressional Research Service estimates that 80 percent (17.5 million people) of non-citizens would, due to their income level, qualify for some part of the insurance expansion.

The president didn't take a position on Obamacare eligibility for the formerly undocumented in the Nevada immigration speech he gave Tuesday, but did signal comfort with gradualism:
These men and women should have to earn their way to citizenship. But for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship. We've got to lay out a path, a process that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally, that's only fair. All right? So that means it won't be a quick process, but it will be a fair process and it will lift these individuals out of the shadows and give them a chance to earn their way to green card and, eventually, to citizenship.


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