united states citizenship & immigration services
department of homeland security
alien naturalization resource center

selected sample questions & answers for civics / american history



1. what is one power of the federal government?

my parents tell me that we are ALIENS

all of our family is in taiwan: all of our blood is there
i do not apply for citizenship until it is dangerous
not to do so        until it is
too late




2. what ocean is on the west coast of the united states?


 they say to start something new on american soil, you need to cut it
in half. everything i own becomes                         hyphenated
no country will take me                  whole, only 
in parts. the american red 

cross leaves a voicemail asking me to give my blood 

so i MAIL IN another immigration form ​the post office begins
to mark all of my letters as RETURN TO SENDER  
i do not go home




3. who is the father of our country?


 we burn incense & paper money to greet my grandfathers buried somewhere 
that is not here.              this morning, i read a statement where

the president tells me i DO NOT BELONG​ ​& i start to believe

in what he says     a white man calls me a ​dirty lesbian  
a white man calls me a chink     ​            ​still

another white man asks me WHERE ARE YOU FROM
i don’t know what to claim
as my HOME ADDRESS                my lip begins to bleed




4. name one right only for u.s. citizens.


if all my blood is in taiwan                                                                     my body must be hollow

 if an alien is a bloodless body                                              who writes us real if not on paper

if my ancestors only know me through smoke                             everything before a hyphen disappears





5. what is one promise you make when you become a u.s. citizen?


 if they ask me for identification, my passport will be green.
when it expires, i watch the immigration officer cut it 
in half the officer presses my hand into a book
full of         ink                           i forget 

how to write              my parents’ names
in chinese




6. we elect a president for how many years?


 i wonder if i too have an expiration date



YUJANE CHEN is a queer, disabled im/migrant alien from Taiwan. Their poems are published or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, the Shade Journal, & elsewhere. They are a 2018 Winter Tangerine Fellow currently working towards a B.A. in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, where they are a student organizer for poets & underrepresented communities of color on campus. 





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