Italy PM says citizenship bill to make Italy safer – Xinhua

Coming to terms with reality:

Granting citizenship to children born in Italy of immigrant parents is the right thing to do and will make Italy safer, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Saturday.

The so-called “ius soli” (“law of the soil” in Latin) bill has become a hot-button issue after last Sunday’s local elections which saw strong gains by the rightwing, anti-immigrant Northern League across Italy.

In remarks at a televised forum organized by La Repubblica newspaper in the northern city of Bologna, the center-left prime minister rebutted opponents of the bill.

The ius soli bill, which is supported by center-left parties and the business sector, would grant citizenship to children born in Italy of foreign parents, and to kids who have spent at least five years in the Italian school system.

Its opponents — the rightwing Northern League party and the euro-skeptic Five Star Movement — claimed it will give potential extremists a legal foothold in Italian society, that it is tantamount to an “ethnic substitution”, and that it is “an unvotable mess”.

“I know a part of parliament and of public opinion looks upon (the ius soli bill) with diffidence,” Gentiloni said. “We musn’t pretend they don’t exist.”

The prime minister explained that citizenship implies rights but also duties, and that is in the interests of the country to include children who are already Italian in everything but their passport, and who will grow into productive members of the society.

“We musn’t allow room for the notion that…we underestimate the significance of our culture and our identity,” Gentiloni said. Granting citizenship to children born in Italy is a sign of strength, not weakness, he added.

The prime minister also replied to those who “agitate the spectre of a threat to our security in a wholly unjustified way”. Counter-terrorism experience teaches that the only way to root out and prevent radicalism is social inclusion, not marginalization and discrimination, Gentiloni said.

“To those who stoke such fears, we must say extending citizenship to these children…is not just a matter of conscience and civil rights, but also one of security,” Gentiloni said.

“The time has come to consider these children as Italian citizens to all effects,” the prime minister said. “We owe it to them, it is the right thing to do, and I hope parliament (approves the bill) very soon, in the coming weeks.”

The ius soli bill was first proposed by an immigrant rights campaign called Italia Sono Anch’Io (I Also Am Italy), which gathered 200,000 signatures on a petition to parliament in 2011-2012.

Supporters of the bill argue that it grants rights to children who are already de facto Italians, boosts Italy’s aging population, and contributes to the national economy by giving them a reason to stay in the country, work, consume and pay taxes.

Source: Italy PM says citizenship bill to make Italy safer – Xinhua |

Australia: Peter Dutton is using citizenship laws to campaign for Liberal leadership, Labor says | The Guardian

Daily Australian citizenship debate news following Labor’s refusal to back the proposed changes:

Labor has accused the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, of using changes to Australia’s citizenship laws as a campaign for the Liberal leadership and has confirmed it will oppose the package.

The Labor caucus on Tuesday morning signed off on a recommendation to block the government’s citizenship changes, which the shadow minister for citizenship and multiculturalism, Tony Burke, described as a “massive overreach”.

Burke told reporters the government’s legislation took some steps, “which, put simply, Australia should never take – and are inconsistent with who we are as a country”.

Labor’s decision to reject the package followed the ventilation of strong concerns internally from MPs from both the right and left factions about core elements of the changes, including the new English language test and residency requirements.

The government, which has attempted to elevate the proposed changes to a national security issue, leapt on Labor’s opposition.

The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, declared Labor “does not value Australian citizenship enough to say, as we do, that it must be more than simply the outcome of an administrative tick and flick form-filling process”.

Turnbull said the title, and the role of Australian citizen, “is the most important in our democracy”.

“Surely we care enough about our democracy, about citizenship, to say that it should be given, granted to people who make a commitment to our nation and share our values”.

The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said the decision showed the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, was being “monstered” by his party’s left faction.

“This demonstrates to all Australians that Labor is completely divided on the citizenship bill.”

He said would-be citizens needed to “abide by Australian laws, to abide by Australian values”.

Burke said Labor had taken the decision to reject the proposal unanimously because core elements of the package were deeply unacceptable.

He said the proposed language test required a university level grasp of English and “what sort of snobbery leads a government to say, unless you reach a university level of English, we’d rather you weren’t here?”

Burke said if there was “a national security problem” for people in the country already living as permanent residents, “then why on earth does the government have them already living here permanently?”

“It is a leadership campaign for Peter Dutton,” Burke said Tuesday. “It is a very silly game, and a very dangerous game, because he is not just playing with some random law here or there, he is talking about the thing that defines who we are as a nation.

“You don’t play games with that”.

The government will now have to rely on crossbench votes to pursue the citizenship package and Dutton told parliament the government did not intend to “back down”.

The proposal the government is seeking to legislate extends permanent residency requirements from one year to “at least four years” before someone can apply for citizenship and requires most applicants to provide evidence of “competent” English-language proficiency before they can become a citizen.

It would also give the immigration minister power to overrule decisions on citizenship applications by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if the minister doesn’t think the decisions are in the national interest, and also give the minister power to decide whether or not the applicant has integrated into the Australian community.

Labor proposes to send the legislation to a Senate inquiry.

Burke said on Tuesday if that inquiry threw up “sensible changes”, which could be considered calmly, then the government could bring forward a new package and Labor would look at it.

Source: Peter Dutton is using citizenship laws to campaign for Liberal leadership, Labor says | Australia news | The Guardian

Bill C-6 Receives Royal Assent –

Useful backgrounder on the changes in Bill C-6 and the coming into force provisions.

Short summary for the key changes: repeal of revocation in cases of terror or treason and the intent to reside provision immediately, changes to residency, pre-Permanent Resident time partial credit, and age requirements for language and knowledge assessment this fall. Changes to the revocation procedures in cases of fraud or misrepresentation expected early 2018.

Bill C-6, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act and make consequential amendments to another Act, received Royal Assent on June 16, 2017. This chart explains the changes that have been made to the Citizenship Act and indicates when these changes are expected to come into force.

Source: Bill C-6 Receives Royal Assent –

Passports for Sale – CBS News

Follow-up interview to CBS’s 60 Minute exposé of citizenship-by-investment schemes. Long article but interviews revealing:

It’s provided St. Kitts and Nevis with hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects, private development, and tourism but a lot of the money is unaccounted for. More than 10,000 people have purchased citizenship here, but it’s almost impossible to tell who they are because the information is not public. Chris Kalin doesn’t like the words citizenship for cash, or any suggestion that all you need is money to get a passport.

Chris Kalin: You have to go through a process. You have to apply. And you have to answer a million questions. And you have to undergo a background verification. And you have, at least in the properly run programs, you have to be a reputable person. And that’s checked.

But evidently, not that carefully. About the only way to identify people who have purchased St. Kitts citizenship is if they’ve happened to turn up on a list of international fugitives or gotten in trouble with the law, and St. Kitts and Nevis has had more than its share for two sleepy, little islands. Its passport holders have included a Canadian penny stock manipulator… a Russian wanted for bribery… a Kazak wanted for embezzlement… two Ukrainians suspected of bribing a U.N. official… and two Chinese women wanted for financial crimes.

Chris Kalin: I think it’s no secret that these islands have made decisions that are not always optimal.

Steve Kroft: They’ve taken some bozos, as you would call them?

Chris Kalin: Yes, exactly.

Steve Kroft: What about crooks?

Chris Kalin: Yes. It’s goes all the way down to crooks, yeah, absolutely. And it tended for some time to attract quite a few people that I would never let into the country. But I’m not the government of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Steve Kroft: But you set up their program.

Chris Kalin: We helped to set up the program. But, you know, as it is, advisers advise, ministers decide.

The island nation drew the ire of the U.S. Treasury Department three years ago after three suspected Iranian operatives were caught using their St. Kitts passports to launder money for banks in Tehran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also had to recall more than 5,000 passports because they either didn’t include a place of birth or were issued to people who had changed their names. Since then a number of reforms have been made, but questions remain.

Peter Vincent: They’re not transparent programs. There are not safeguards in place.

Until 2014, Peter Vincent was the top legal adviser for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the department of Homeland Security, which he says is well aware of all the vulnerabilities. In fact, before General John F. Kelly became secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, he expressed concern in a 2015 report that “cash for passport programs could be exploited by criminals, terrorists or other nefarious actors.”

Steve Kroft: Does that present a security threat, do you think?

Peter Vincent: It does. In my opinion, the global community has established a very effective global security architecture to prevent terrorist attacks. I see these cash for citizenship programs as a gaping hole in that security architecture.


Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Unit


But it’s not stopped the programs from multiplying across the Caribbean…Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and Antigua are all competing with St. Kitts now for customers and badly needed cash.

Gaston Browne: So what are we supposed to do? Sit back and do nothing? You tell me.

Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, says the revenue from its four-year-old program has kept the government from defaulting on its international loans and has turned the economy around. Antigua also claims to have among the strictest programs in the Caribbean. You actually have to show up here to get citizenship, albeit very briefly.

Gaston Browne: Our law provides them to spend at least five days here.

Steve Kroft: That sounds like a vacation.

Gaston Browne: Yes. I understand. But however, we have made sure that at least there must be some face-to-face contact so we know who these people are.

Steve Kroft: For five days.

Gaston Browne: Minimum.

Steve Kroft: What kinda people are you looking for?

Gaston Browne: We’re lookin’ for high net worth individuals. People who are established business people. Who are well-known. And to make sure that we get the crème de la crème.

If so, they are recruiting them in some odd places. Last summer, Antigua announced it was opening an embassy in Baghdad hoping to sell passports to Iraqis. It didn’t work out. But it’s doing better next door in Syria after hiring a relative of President Bashar Al-Assad to represent them.

Steve Kroft: Have you had any applications from Syria?

Gaston Browne: Yes. We have had applications from Syria.

Steve Kroft: And you’ve approved them.

Gaston Browne: Syria is one of the areas in which we have had some concerns but did not place it on a restricted list.

Prime Minister Browne told us instability breeds opportunity. Besides Syria, Antigua has sold citizenship to Iranians, Libyans, Pakistanis, and the people who brought condos in this half-built complex in the desert outside Dubai, 7,300 miles away from Antigua. Its website advertised, “Buy a villa in the UAE and get citizenship of Antigua.”

Steve Kroft: I mean, you said that you were looking for the crème de la crème.

Gaston Browne: Crème de la crème.

Steve Kroft: I mean, there’s a developer in Dubai.

Gaston Browne: Yes.

Steve Kroft: Sweet Homes.

Gaston Browne: Yes.

Steve Kroft: Who is advertising that he’s giving away passports to anyone who buys a condominium there.

Gaston Browne: You don’t believe that, right?

Steve Kroft: Like you open a bank account, you get a free toaster.

Gaston Browne: That is not so.

Browne dismissed the sweet homes ads as advertising hype, saying the citizenship is not free or guaranteed. Somebody has to come up with $250,000 for Antigua and condo buyers must pass a background check.

Gaston Browne: You have to go through all of the due diligence.

Steve Kroft: What kinda due diligence do you do?

Gaston Browne: Well, and that is where the crux of the matter lies.


A diplomatic passport from Dominica


The prime minister claimed that the names of all applicants for Antiguan citizenship are screened by American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and generally speaking due diligence in the Caribbean has improved substantially since the scandals in St. Kitts. The small island offices with a few people are now backed up by international firms that take the screening to a higher level. But ultimately it’s up to each country to decide who gets a passport, and the Caribbean has a rich history of turning a blind eye to official corruption. It’s affected the way the way passports are handed out, especially diplomatic passports, that entitle the bearer to all sorts of special privileges, which Peter Vincent says represents a much more serious security threat.

Peter Vincent: The border officials at the receiving country, even without a visa, almost always admit an individual carrying a diplomatic passport. In addition, border forces are not entitled to search the luggage of diplomats like they are for regular tourists. They simply wave them through.

The sale of diplomatic passports is not part of the citizenship by investment program, but it’s gone on under the table, according to U.S. authorities, in places like Dominica, which has had a lot of dodgy diplomats.

Lennox Linton: We had a diplomatic passport in the hands of Francesco Corallo, who, at the time, was on INTERPOL’s list of most-wanted criminals.

Lennox Linton, who heads the opposition in Parliament, says no one in Dominica had ever heard of Corallo until he was stopped by authorities in Italy.

Lennox Linton: He said, “You can’t detain me. I’m a diplomat.” They said, “Diplomat? Diplomat of where?” He said, “Dominica.”

Then there’s Dominican diplomat Alison Madueke, a former Nigerian oil minister charged with bribery and money laundering. And Rudolph King, a Bahamian fugitive from U.S. justice, who presented himself as Dominica’s special envoy to Bahrain.

Lennox Linton: What we were doing with an ambassador in Bahrain, I don’t quite know. But they seem to think that there was some benefit in there for us.

Steve Kroft: I assume that you’ve asked the prime minister…

Lennox Linton: Yes.

Steve Kroft: How he ended up appointing these people, diplomats.

Lennox Linton: Yes.

Steve Kroft: And what was the answer?

Lennox Linton: The prime minister doesn’t answer those questions.

With vast sums of money flowing into these island nations, and more and more countries selling their citizenship, there is consensus that still more oversight and transparency is needed. But privacy and secrecy have always been a major selling point for people buying multiple passports, including Chris Kalin, the man who invented the business plan.

Steve Kroft: How many do you have?

Chris Kalin: I have multiple.

Steve Kroft: So you don’t wanna tell us how many you have?

Chris Kalin: There’s a few things in my life that, that I don’t talk openly about. And I keep for myself. But I am Swiss originally and many people think I’m very Swiss and so I’ll leave it at that.

Our report in January sparked a flurry of reaction in the Caribbean. In Dominica, there were riots demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit for his handling of diplomatic passports. He denies any improprieties. The St. Kitts government deactivated more than 15,000 passports, including 91 diplomatic passports. And Antigua’s program — singled out by the U.S. State Department as “among the most lax in the world” — has also recalled many of its diplomatic passports.

Source: Passports for Sale – CBS News

Australia: Dumped Abbott-era changes resurface in Turnbull government’s citizenship bill

I had always thought that Australia granted birthright citizenship but apparently it does not, with these further restrictions moving it more distinct than the Canadian approach. Also surprised that citizenship had been granted to children of diplomats – not the case in Canada:

A crackdown on citizenship rights for children of migrants and foreign diplomats is among a number of dumped Tony Abbott-era proposals to have resurfaced in the Turnbull government’s citizenship revamp.

The government says the restrictions are necessary to stop parents using their children’s citizenship “as an anchor for family migration” or to win sympathy in their own migration disputes.

Under the proposed changes, children will no longer become citizens on their 10th birthday if, at any point, they were present in Australia unlawfully or re-entered Australia without a valid visa.

The same will also apply if a child’s parent lacked a “substantive” visa at the time of the child’s birth and was present in Australia unlawfully prior to the birth. That means a child born to parents on bridging visas would not automatically acquire citizenship.

And children born to foreign diplomats will no longer gain Australian citizenship on their 10th birthday.

However, the immigration department confirmed to Fairfax Media that in each case, if one of the child’s parents was an Australian citizen or permanent resident, the child would acquire citizenship in the normal way.

Source: Dumped Abbott-era changes resurface in Turnbull government’s citizenship bill

IRCC Datasets: What they say about government priorities

While preparing a presentation on how immigration, settlement, citizenship and multiculturalism worked together to facilitate integration, I accessed a broad range of the IRCC operational datasets on the government’s Open Data website. Intrigued by what was available and what was not, I reviewed all  227 unique datasets.

IRCC has, to its credit, invested considerable resources in these datasets for both internal and external use, having the fifth largest number of datasets on Open Data (excluding Statistics Canada). Moreover, these datasets are among the most widely used: 11 of the top 25 government datasets downloaded are from IRCC (April 2017).

IRCC demonstrated considerable flexibility and agility in the creation of datasets with respect to the recent wave of Syrian refugees, and the introduction of monthly operational statistics for key programs.

Part of my motivation was to assess the long-standing weaknesses in citizenship datasets, reflecting the relative lower priority of the citizenship program, and make recommendations for improvements.

Not surprisingly, the datasets reflect IRCC’s overall management emphasis on immigration as well as stakeholder demand: permanent and temporary resident datasets are 93.5 percent of the total. The datasets include:

  • Permanent residents (immigrants: economic, family and refugee classes): 110 datasets of 47.6 percent of the total.
  • Temporary residents (Temporary Foreign Worker Program: includes agricultural workers, live-in caregivers and others; International Mobility Program: includes those admitted under international services agreements like NAFTA, those under “Canadian Interests,” primarily under youth work exchange program and spousal employment; international students): 106 datasets or 45.9 percent.
  • Citizenship and passport: Six datasets or 2.6 percent.
  • Settlement services: Nine datasets or 3.9 percent.

IRCC datasets can be divided into four categories: ongoing and published on a regular basis (80.5 percent), archived or historical datasets (16.5 percent) and specialized datasets pertaining to international students (2.2 percent).

The majority are updated annually (54.1 percent), followed by the recent introduction of monthly reports (21.6 percent), quarterly (9.1 percent) and other (15.2 percent). Monthly and quarterly reports focus on operational data: the number of applications, approvals, approval rate and inventory.

Permanent and Temporary Residents

The comprehensive datasets for permanent and temporary residents include information regarding program and category, country of origin (whether processing source area, country of citizenship or country of birth), gender and age. Table 1 summarizes this information with most datasets having several variables (e.g., gender and age).Given the shared federal-provincial jurisdiction for immigration, and the increased and active role of the provinces in selection (i.e., the Provincial Nominee Program), it is no surprise that the majority of permanent resident datasets are broken down by province (52.7 percent), with 31.8 percent at the national level. To assist the planning and programmes of municipalities and service provider organizations for settlement services (integration), ten percent are at the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) level, with a further 4.5 percent at the Census District (CD) level.

In terms of immigration class, over one-quarter are for refugees (27.3 percent), 21.8 percent for economic class, and 1.8 percent for family class, with 49.1 pertaining to all classes.

For temporary residents, who cannot access settlement services, the majority (60.4 percent) are at the national level, 34 percent at the provincial level, and 4.7 percent at the CMA level.

By program, datasets for international students form 23.6 percent, IMP and TFWP each at 21.8 percent and other ten percent, with 22.7 percent pertaining to all programs.

By and large, these datasets are coherent and consistent, with any variation reflecting program needs and a balance between the overall picture and greater detail (e.g., top 10 for refugees, top 20 for IMP or top 50 for students or all (various) countries of birth or citizenship).

However, as shown in Table 2, the main difference concerns age data, with permanent residents focused more on younger immigrants, compared to temporary residents with a relatively greater focus on older workers. The difference in age cohorts between all permanent residents and those admitted under Express Entry likely has a policy justification. However, it is hard to understand the policy rationale for settlement services using the temporary resident breakdown given that only permanent residents can access these services. IRCC may wish to review whether there is a need for greater consistency and coherence regarding the age cohorts.

Citizenship, Passport and Settlement Services

There are only six datasets for citizenship (including one for passport) and nine for settlement services (three general, six for refugees). This reflects a number of reasons:

  • Citizenship has always been a secondary priority for IRCC at both the political and official levels. The program is under-funded and under-managed, as seen in the large and repeated fluctuations in the number of applications and new citizens, in sharp contrast to the number of new permanent residents which is more tightly managed to deliver on the annual levels plan (Chart 1);
  • The provinces have no role in citizenship and thus no data demands. Immigration stakeholders have limited interest in citizenship as they focus on immigration and refugee issues;
  • Passport is a new program to IRCC (previously was with Global Affairs Canada), with similarly low interest with outside stakeholders beyond basic operational data; and,
  • Service provider organizations (SPOs) and others that are interested is settlement services data have a wide range of useful permanent resident data that assists them in planning and operations. IRCC has responded to the needs of SPOs by providing general refugee settlement datasets as well as specific ones for Syrian refugees.

Table 3 lists these datasets:

Moreover, these are more limited than other datasets. Annual permanent and temporary resident provide ten year data, adequate to assess trends and changes. In contrast, annual citizenship data covers only five years, settlement services data only two years and passport processing data is not even presented on a full-year basis, making it impossible to assess trends and the impact of policy and program changes. Citizenship datasets are even more limited with no gender and age breakdowns.

They are also updated less frequently than other datasets. Monthly datasets for permanent and temporary residents and settlement services include April 2017 at the time of writing (14 June); citizenship only until February 2017, and passport until December 2016.

Concluding observations

As noted, IRCC has invested considerable resources in developing and maintaining these datasets. In doing so, it has naturally enough reinforced its main focus on immigration statistics, responding to overall stakeholder interests, with minimal attention to citizenship.

The datasets appear to have grown organically as program changes created needs for new datasets. There appears to be potential to review the number and type to see if some datasets are no longer needed or duplicative (e.g., the introduction of monthly datasets may make quarterly ones necessary, are csv versions needed in addition to xls?).

Another area for improvement with respect to provincial datasets is to ensure that these all include national totals by program, as there is currently some inconsistency (e.g., Transition from Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident Status – Quarterly IRCC Updates tables versus the “Facts and Figures” series for both permanent and temporary residents).

Other areas for improvement at the Open Data level include, particularly those that are likely within IRCC control:

  • Order the dataset groupings alphabetically as it currently appears random, with related sets not grouped together;
  • Review grouping titles for clarity, particularly “Quarterly Updates” as the vast majority of datasets listed are a mix of annual and quarterly data;
  • Review all data set titles for consistency (e.g., temporary resident facts and figures are numbered, permanent residents are not; set a standard sequence: program/category then geography, then specific variables such as gender, age, education etc.; inclusion or not of ‘Canada’ in title; indicate specific immigration class if appropriate);
  • Advocate with other departments for a wider field for data set descriptions (appears to be only 37 characters) to make these more readable and shorten the wasted space of the titles for other fields (type, format, language, links);
  • Advocate for more than 10 dataset groupings per web page to minimize clicks.

My particular focus, however, is with respect to citizenship.

The lack of attention to citizenship, seen operationally in the wide swings of application and new citizens, requires greater management focus and attention. While IRCC has been very helpful in the provision of special runs, more comprehensive citizenship datasets on Open Data are needed. IRCC should ensure a minimum degree of consistency with permanent and temporary resident datasets that would help flag operational and policy concerns. For citizenship, passport, and settlement services, these would include:

  • 10-year time series data for citizenship and settlement services;
  • 1947-2016 long-term citizenship data (new citizens);
  • gender breakdown for citizenship (not just for adoptions), passport and settlement services (not just for refugees);
  • age breakdown for citizenship and passport, using the permanent resident age groups; and,
  • monthly citizenship applications by country of birth, not just monthly number of new citizens.

Should resources permit, a number of additional citizenship datasets should be considered to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how well the program is working with respect to integration and reinforcing the immigrant-to-citizen transition:

  • Annual data on the number and percentage of immigrants who have taken up citizenship within six years of landing in order to assess the recent naturalization rate, not the overall one that IRCC cites in its performance reports and elsewhere. While a target of 70 percent naturalization within six years of landing is proposed, more analysis might suggest a different target. Having this data collected and reported would inform the establishment of a meaningful performance standard; and,
  • Annual breakdown by immigration class of new citizens and approval rates by gender to assess the impact on each class of citizenship policies.

Given the importance of immigration, settlement, citizenship and multiculturalism to integration of newcomers and their children, good and comprehensive data is central to evidence-based policy making. IRCC has again commendably invested in such data with respect to immigration data but should address the above mentioned gaps in citizenship data to strengthen the management and oversight of the citizenship program.

Australia: Coalition’s test likely to disadvantage those who need citizenship most | The Guardian

As the Australian government proceeds with its changes, the same issues raised by refugee advocates as in C-24:

Citizenship applicants will need to demonstrate a higher level of English proficiency if the government’s proposed changes to the Australian citizenship test go ahead.

Applicants will be required to reach the equivalent of Band 6 proficiency of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

To achieve Band 6, applicants must correctly answer 30 out of 40 questions in the reading paper, 23 out of 40 in the listening paper and the writing paper rewards language used “accurately and appropriately”. If a candidate’s writing has “frequent” inaccuracies in grammar and spelling, they cannot achieve Band 6.

Success in IELTS requires proficiency in both the English language and also understanding how to take – and pass – a test. The proposed changes will then make it harder for people with fragmented educational backgrounds to become citizens, such as many refugees.

How do the tests now work?

The current citizenship test consists of 20 multiple choice questions in English that ask about Australia’s political system, history and citizen responsibilities.

While the test does not require demonstration of English proficiency per se, it acts as an indirect assessment of language.

For example, the question “Which official symbol of Australia identifies commonwealth property?” demonstrates the level of linguistic complexity required.

The IELTS test is commonly taken for immigration purposes as a requirement for certain visa categories; however, the designer of the IELTS argues that it was never designed for this purpose. Researchers have argued that the growing strength of English as the language of politics and economics has resulted in its widespread use for immigration purposes.

Impact of proposed changes

English is undoubtedly important for participation in society but deciding citizenship based on a high-stakes language test could further marginalise community members, such as people with refugee backgrounds who have the greatest need for citizenship yet lack the formal educational background to navigate such tests.

The Refugee Council of Australia argues that adults with refugee backgrounds will be hardest hit by the proposed language test.

Data shows that refugees are both more likely to apply for citizenship and twice as likely as other migrant groups to have to retake the test.

Mismatched proficiency expectations

The adult migrant English program, where many adult refugees access English learning upon arrival, expects only a “functional” level of language proficiency.

For many adult refugees – who have minimal first language literacy, fragmented educational experiences and limited opportunities to gain feedback on their written English – “competency” may be prohibitive to gaining citizenship. This is also more likely to impact refugee women, who are less likely to have had formal schooling and more likely to assume caring duties.

Bar too high?

The challenges faced in resettlement, such as pressures of work and financial responsibilities to extended family, often combine to make learning a language difficult and, by extension, prevent refugees from completing the citizenship test.

Similar patterns are evident with the IELTS. Nearly half of Arabic speakers who took the IELTS in 2015 scored lower than Band 6.

There are a number of questions to clarify regarding the proposed language proficiency test:

  • Will those dealing with trauma-related experiences gain exemption from a high-stakes, time-pressured examination?
  • What support will be provided to help applicants study for the test?
  • Will financially disadvantaged members of the community be expected to pay for classes and materials to prepare for the citizenship test?
  • The IELTS test costs $330, with no subsidies available. Will the IELTS-based citizenship/language test attract similar fees?

There are also questions about the fairness of requiring applicants to demonstrate a specific type and level of English under examination conditions that is not required of all citizens. Those born in Australia are not required to pass an academic test of language to retain their citizenship.

Recognising diversity of experiences

There are a few things the government should consider before introducing a language test:

1. Community consultation is essential. Input from community/migrant groups, educators and language assessment specialists will ensure that the test functions as a valid evaluation of progression towards English language proficiency. The government is now calling for submissionsrelated to the new citizenship test.

2. Design the test to value different forms and varieties of English that demonstrate progression in learning rather than adherence to prescriptive standards.

3. Provide educational opportunities that build on existing linguistic strengths that help people to prepare for the test.

Equating a particular type of language proficiency with a commitment to Australian citizenship is a complex and ideologically loaded notion. The government must engage in careful consideration before potentially further disadvantaging those most in need of citizenship.

Source: Coalition’s test likely to disadvantage those who need citizenship most | Sally Baker and Rachel Burke | Australia news | The Guardian

Australia: Labor disputes Peter Dutton’s claim party was briefed on citizenship changes

The politics are fascinating (policy not so much).

Not releasing the results of the consultations (Australia: Feedback on controversial citizenship changes to be kept secret) and now Labour contesting the degree of consultations …:

The shadow minister for citizenship, Tony Burke, has accused Peter Dutton of misleading journalists about having properly briefed Labor on the government’s proposed changes to citizenship laws.

Dutton, the immigration minister, announced on Sunday he would introduce legislation to parliament this week that made it harder to get Australian citizenship.

He said the Turnbull government wanted to toughen English language competencies, introduce a values test, extend the amount of time before permanent residents could apply for citizenship, and require people to demonstrate they had integrated into Australian society.

He called on Labor to support the legislation, and said Labor had been briefed on the bill.

“The Labor party will receive a copy of the bill this week,” he said on Sunday. “They’ve already had a briefing in relation to the bill.”

On Monday, Dutton then announced the legislation would give him power to overrule decisions by the Administrative Appeal Tribunalon citizenship applications that he didn’t think were in Australia’s national interest.

He called on Labor to support the bill again.

“It won’t pass through the Senate unless we can get Labor’s support, so that’s the key objective for this week, to speak with the Labor party,” he told Sky News.

“They’ve already had a briefing in relation to many of these matters and once they’ve seen the legislation this week they can ask questions.”

Labour response

But Burke said on Tuesday that Labor hadn’t been briefed on the policy details that appeared in media reports over the last couple of days.

He said the last briefing Labor received was before the 9 May budget, over a month ago.

“I was given a briefing on the 8th of May,” Burke said. “Was I briefed on the issues of the citizenship changes that were in the papers on the weekend? No, not at all. That’s all new. None of that existed as part of the proposal at the time of the briefing.

“[During that briefing], when I asked which parts of what I was being briefed on the government was committed to, the answer was none.

“When I asked, on the English-language test, how many people who currently apply for citizenship would pass the test, the government didn’t know.

“When I asked how many Australians would pass the test at a university level, the government didn’t know.

“Today I see in the papers, a claim that it is somehow linked to national security … once again, we’ve got changes here that have appeared in the paper that weren’t part of the briefing, that weren’t part of the government’s original proposal,” he said.

SCOTUS strikes down citizenship law –

Surprising it took this long for a case to test the discrimination:

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law that treats children born overseas to unmarried parents differently for purposes of citizenship depending upon whether the biological father or mother is a US citizen.

Under the law, US citizen fathers have to spend at least five years in the states before the child could become a citizen, while the mother only had to spend one year.
The plaintiff in the case, Luis Ramon Morales-Santana, was born in 1962 in the Dominican Republic to unmarried parents. His mother was a citizen of the Dominican Republic and his father was a US citizen who had not spent more than five years in the United States after his 14th birthday.
Morales-Santana was admitted to the US as a lawful permanent resident in 1975. After years of living in the US he was put in removal proceedings after convictions for various felonies. He claimed he was a US citizen because of his father’s citizenship. But the Board of Immigration Appeals denied the claim because the father had not satisfied the physical presence requirements.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dedicated her career to the issue of gender discrimination before taking the bench, wrote the decision.
The section of the 1952 Nationality Act, she wrote, could not “withstand inspection under a Constitution that requires the government to respect the equal dignity and stature of its male and female citizens.”
But while the law “violates the equal-protection principles,” the court also said it is “not equipped” to grant the relief that Morales-Santana seeks — striking down the law and grant him citizenship. Congress would have to make that determination, Ginsburg wrote.
Under the Immigration and Nationality act of 1952 as originally written, a child born outside of the United States to an unwed citizen father and a non-citizen mother has citizenship at birth only if the father was present in the United States for a period totaling at least 10 years, with at least five of those years occurring after the age of 14. But the statute has since been amendedto decrease the time requirement for those born since November 14, 1986, to 5 years in the United States, at least two of which were after age of 14. A child born abroad to an unwed citizen mother has citizenship if the mother lived in the United States for at least one year at some point prior to the child’s birth.

Source: SCOTUS strikes down citizenship law –

Australia: Feedback on controversial citizenship changes to be kept secret

Hard to understand the rationale apart from stifling discussion and debate. Indicates a certain insecurity:

The Turnbull government will keep secret the public’s feedback on its proposed changes to the Australian citizenship test, in a marked departure from normal processes, as the controversial bill goes before Parliament this week.

The immigration department confirmed it will not publish submissions to the consultation process designed to inform the final version of its revamped citizenship regime – particularly the introduction of an Australian values test.

Open for the six weeks until June 1, the consultation was supposed to help the government define “Australian values” and to word a new pledge of allegiance to Australia. “We are looking for views,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in April.

But the department will not air those views publicly, citing confidentiality, nor confirm the volume of feedback received. “Submissions were provided in confidence and were not for publication by the department,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

However, several organisations that made submissions told Fairfax Media they did not request the department keep their recommendations private.

The Refugee Council, Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils and the Liverpool Migrant Resource Centre have all published their submissions – critical of the government’s proposal – on their websites.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Sunday confirmed a bill to enact the major changes – including a four-year wait before permanent residents can attain citizenship, and tougher English language requirements for aspiring citizens – will be introduced to Parliament this week.

The new regime would allow him, as minister, to revoke the citizenship of migrants suspected of gaining citizenship fraudulently – by lying on the test, for example. It will also require minors to pass a “good character” test to gain citizenship, in a move designed to target young migrant criminals.

“It is a bill that suits the times we’re living in and the government is very serious about making sure that people who pledge their allegiance to our country abide by our laws and our values,” Mr Dutton said on Sunday.

The citizenship reform package, the second in three years, has attracted the ire of migrant groups and some in Labor’s Left faction, who have voiced concerns about unfairly strict English testing and disenfranchising permanent residents for four years.

Labor reserved its position on Sunday, with citizenship spokesman Tony Burke promising to “deal responsibly with any sensible proposal” from the government. Mr Dutton also indicated he was willing to negotiate with the Senate crossbench.

The decision against publishing the public’s feedback defies routine practice for government consultations, whereby public submissions are usually published online unless they contain sensitive or defamatory material.

Source: Feedback on controversial citizenship changes to be kept secret