Interacting with the Government

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Preparing Students to Interact with the Government in Salt Lake City, UT

The English Skills Learning Center (ESLC) in Salt Lake City, Utah, knows that civic integration is more than just learning about holidays and cultural traditions. Integrating into a new community often means resetting expectations regarding your local and federal government agencies and learning how to interact with those agencies. To help with this transition, ESLC facilitates class discussions on real life interactions with the government and has regularly welcomed immigration services officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to conduct mock interviews with their students. After receiving USCIS’ Citizenship and Integration Grant, ESLC began to integrate speakers from other government agencies into its class schedule, inviting speakers from law enforcement, mental health organizations, affordable housing programs, and local libraries to present to its citizenship students.

During one class, two police officers talked about what to do at a traffic stop, what constitutes an emergency, what happens during a domestic violence call, and how an actual arrest takes place. One of the students, a native Spanish speaker, asked about reporting a neighbor’s suspicious activities. After the presentation, she outlined the specifics of the situation to one of the officers who was fluent in Spanish.

A different class session focused on the naturalization question on income tax fraud and on scammers who pretend to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The ESLC instructor asked if anyone had ever received a telephone call from the IRS, and several students raised their hands. When asked how they responded, the students provided a variety of reactions. Some ignored the call or asked a family member for help. One student actually gave the caller her Social Security number and had to contend with identity theft issues as a consequence. Another student went to the local IRS office and submitted herself to be arrested! By the end of the lesson, all students were aware that the IRS never contacts anyone by phone, email, or social media, and that they should report any scam or fraud attempts that they encounter.

In another lesson, students discussed the 2020 Census. They learned what a census is, how data will be collected in 2020, what census data is used for, the importance of participating in the census, and confidentiality of census information. At the end of the lesson, students understood why it is important for everyone living in the United States to participate in the census.

For new immigrants, knowing how a local, state, or federal U.S. government or authority will contact them is critical information. It’s the key to protecting themselves and their families from scams and to understanding what their responsibilities are as citizens. With the USCIS grant-funded classes, ESLC is preparing their students to succeed in their American communities.

“It is important to participate in the census because census data are used to decide the number of representatives in your state receives in Congress.”  ~Adelina (to the left)

“It is important to participate in the census because the information is used to provide education, police, fire department for states.”  ~ Hikmet (to the right)

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