American Citizenship Handbook

Welcome to the greatest country in the world!

Hello Future Citizen!

Welcome to America and the great state of Illinois. In this handbook, I will explain to you all of the information about the different governments, the Constitution, and the system of checks and balances to help you become the best new citizen you can be. Use this information to help you become a citizen and good luck!

Why does America have so many individual states?

You may have noticed before deciding to apply to become an American citizen that the United States consist of 50 states. That is a lot of states! You may have even wondered why we need a lot of states. The reason America has many individual states is to help meet the needs of every person. Every state has their own needs or beliefs, so each state has the power to make their own decisions to keep the people living in a state satisfied. If the Federal government controlled everything, it may be more of a monarchy then a democracy. Also, there are individual states so the federal government doesn’t have to worry about everything. The state government can take some of the burden of work of of the Federal Government’s shoulders.
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The Constitution of the United States of America

You may have heard of the Constitution while looking into your citizenship. A constitution is a document stating the fundamental principles and rights of the people issued by the government. It also states the restrictions of the government. Our Constitution here in the USA was ratified on June 21, 1788. Our Constitution states the restrictions of the government. It keeps the government from breaking out and becoming too powerful, as we have seen what has happened in other countries when there is a government that is too powerful. The Constitution is almost like a heavy duty leash keeping a raging dog from breaking out and attacking people.
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The Preamble of the Constitution

The Preamble of the Constitution is the introduction. It explains in a simple way the rights and goals of the people, and the restrictions of the government. Here is an explanation of the six principles noted in the Preamble.

  • In order to form a more perfect union

This principle in the Preamble states that the country needs to be more unified and not split apart as they were before. The government is hoping that the Constitution will hopefully create union and happiness between the country and the states.

  • Establish justice

This Principle means that the country needs to set up a system of fair and equitable laws. It also means that people that don’t follow the laws need to be punished fairly. It ensures that all US citizens are ensured to be protected as to life, liberty, and property and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

  • Insure domestic tranquility

Insuring domestic tranquility means that the government has to be able to smooth tensions between states and prevent rebellions. It also means that the government needs to keep us safe through services such as police, fire, and hospitals. So no one can come into our houses and steal our personal belongings.

  • Provide for the common defense

This principle means that the states will come together in one union. Before the Constitution, each state had their own army. Now what the constitution is saying is that the states will be in union with one national army defending the country.

  • Promote the general welfare

Promoting the general welfare means doing whats best for our country. This includes public safety and promoting health. These are responsibilities of the Federal Government.

  • Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity

This means to make sure that we are always living with freedom and liberty, and that the government are not taking away these privileges from us. To ourselves and our posterity means that we want to live free with liberty, but we also need to make sure the future generations can to. The Constitution protects our right for liberty, unjust laws, and freedom from an over powerful government.

Six Principles of the US constitution

Potential Problems with Federalism

Federalism presents some potential issues. An example of when Federalism didn't work is during Hurricane Katrina. A lot of people were supposed to do something, but assumed that someone else would do it for them. This led to finger pointing and America seeking answers for how to resolve this crisis.
FEDERALISM: Lessons of Katrina
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What are the obligations or responsibilities of a US citizen?

Here in the US, there are many responsibilities, which are preferences for what you should do, and obligations, which are actions required by law. An example of a responsibility of a US citizen is to be informed. Know how the government works and know the laws. Another responsibility is to vote in elections. An obligation which is required by law are things such as jury duty and obeying laws. An obligation for children is for them to attend school.


In the United States of America, we have an assembly in the Federal government called Congress. There are two separate assemblies, one is the House of Representatives and has 435 members. The other is the Senate, which has 100 members. There are representatives and senators from each state, so you can contact your representative if you want. A reason to contact them is if you want to advise them who to vote, or if you want to recommend a law to vote on.
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Illinois Government Branches

Executive Branch- The executive branch of the Illinois government enforces laws. They also have important roles such as governor, treasurer, and attorney general. They are all elected by the people.

Legislative Branch- The legislative branch of the Illinois government is like the legislative branch of the federal government, but at a smaller degree. They have a senate and a house of representatives. there are 59 senators and 118 representatives. There is one senator elected from each legislative district, and 2 house members elected from each legislative district. They vote on laws and make sure everyone in the executive branch is following the Constitution.

Judicial Branch- The judicial branch has three courts: The supreme court, appellate, and the circuit courts. There are 7 justices on the Supreme court, 52 judges for the Appellate courts, and unified trial courts.


How does the system of checks and balances work?

Each branch of government can limit the powers of the others. For example, the legislative branch can impeach executive officers, executive officers can appoint judges, and the judicial branch can make sure that everything everyone is doing is constitutional.

How do laws pass?

The House votes on a bill first. If they get a 2 thirds vote then the bill goes to the Senate. If the Senate gets a two thirds vote, then the bill is passed along to the President. He can then veto or uphold a bill, making it a law or sending it back to Congress.

What is an impeachment?

An impeachment is when the Judicial branch thinks the acts of an executive officer is unconstitutional. The Senate then holds a trial, and if they get a two thirds vote then the executive officer is kicked out of office.

What is the difference between the three courts?

The supreme court tries the biggest crimes or issues. They also judge the actions of people in the legislative and executive branches. The Appellate court hold trials such as when someone is suing someone. The circuit court holds more local issues such as driving accidents.

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“FEDERALISM: Lessons Of Katrina.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 25 Sep. 2015. <>

“Free Image On Pixabay - Bulldog, Cartoon, Angry, Dog.” Free vector graphic: Bulldog, Cartoon, Angry, Dog. Web. 25 Sep. 2015. <>

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“Illinois.” Web. 25 Sep. 2015. <>

“Infographic: 3 Branches Of the U.S. Government - KIDS DISCOVER.” Kids Discover. Web. 25 Sep. 2015. <>

“Legislative Branch.” Government. Web. 25 Sep. 2015. <>

“Six Principles Of the US Constitution.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 25 Sep. 2015. <>
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