With the Trump administration trying to ban travelers from several Muslim-majority countries from the United States, the New-York Historical Society and museum is launching a new initiative to help green-card holders become American citizens.
The program will include free workshops and classes, paired with displays and a scavenger hunt at the museum on Manhattan's Upper West Side, all linked to questions on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization test - the final hurdle to citizenship.
"As far as we are aware, we are the first institution to develop a higher program of on-site workshops using our object collection with the exclusive purpose of promoting citizenship for as many legal immigrants as possible," said Louise Mirrer, the society's president and chief executive.
About 13.1 million people across the United States were green-card holders on Jan. 1, 2013, and 8.8 million of them were eligible for naturalization, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The New-York Historical Society, founded in 1804, teamed up with the City University of New York to launch the initiative this summer, aiming to help the 1 million green-card holders in the metropolitan area.
Green-card holders have the right to live and work in the United States. But they were originally included in President Donald Trump's January executive order banning refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming to the United States.
That executive order, which initially prompted chaos and confusion, and a revised version that removed green-card holders and Iraq off the banned list were blocked by U.S. judges. But concern has remained high among immigrant communities, with a chief executive whose presidential campaign focused on cracking down on illegal immigration.
"We decided the time (for the program) was now," Mirrer explained in a phone interview. "The demand for help in becoming a citizen on the part of green-card holders has ramped up hugely."
To become citizens, green-card holders must pass an English literacy test and an oral government and history exam by correctly answering six of 10 questions from a total pool of 100.
Questions range from "What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?" to "What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?"
"These are things that Americans should know but most Americans do not," said Mirrer. (For a practice version of the civics test, please see: https://my.uscis.gov/en/prep/test/civics/view)
The society's initiative will include a new gallery with interactive displays designed around the 100 questions. It is a model that other historical societies and museums could follow to help green-card holders and educate Americans.
"In an environment in which many legal immigrants are feeling concerned, we want to help them," Mirrer said. "We deeply believe that immigration has been the bedrock of this country from the start."
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Patrick Enright and Jonathan Oatis)