MARCH 31, 1997

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Study guide unbecoming to America

study guide provided by New Americans of Washington
There is a particular study guide that has turned up in the State of Washington that has Become a U.S. Citizen emblazoned on its purple cover, with the notation that it is provided compliments of "Immigration and Naturalization Services." On the inside, it mentions a "U.S. Citizen Service Center" for "Immigration & Naturalization," with a very official-looking governmental seal.
   The initial problem with the pamphlet is that the publisher is not the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). There is no "s" on the end. It's a private group out of Sacramento, California. And beyond the confusion it is capable of creating, the guide itself has some errors in it that could spell doom for anyone using it to study for their citizenship exam.
   In a cleverly designed approach, the Sacramento-based organization has developed a guide that targets Russian speaking applicants on the west coast, offering translations from English into their native language, ostensibly to aid in their quest for citizenship. But in an examination where a wrong answer could ruin a test taker's chances for citizenship, and create months of delays and additional costs, this "Study Guide" contains such erroneous facts as: John Hancock wrote the Declaration of Independence (it was Thomas Jefferson); Jefferson was the Father of the Consititution (it was James Madison); and identifies the Liberty Bell as being located in Washington, D.C. (it's in Philadelphia).
   And the list of errors doesn't stop there. In a recent class outside of Seattle, Greg Gourley, director of New Americans of Washington, was instructing an INS-endorsed citizenship class when he was approached by several of his students who had received copies of the guide, which has made its way into Washington State, as well as Oregon. They were in the process of correcting the answers, as well as the spelling in the supposed study guide, using official reference material provided by the real Immigration and Naturalization Service. One of the students had become concerned when he saw a statement regarding Teddy Roosevelt, which stated that he had been elected to four terms. The student knew it had been Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
   In a phone conversation recently with members of the Sacramento organization, Gourley was surprised to learn that one of the founders wasn't even a United States citizen, a fact which he freely admitted. In a review of the manual, it became obvious that it has been supported by local California businesses that may not have been aware of its contents. The entire issue of a "study guide" for citizenship being written by non-citizens raises a host of other issues that the director of New Americans of Washington didn't even want to become involved with.
   "In a time when citizenship is so important for so many people in our country who honestly deserve to become Americans, it is critical that the information given to them be equally honest and correct," said Mr. Gourley. "Anything less is unbecoming to America."