Staff from the Carroll County Literacy Council traveled to Tulsa on March 26th to attend a workshop sponsored by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The title of the workshop was "Teaching Civics and Citizenship to Immigrants."
"Most people don't know that applying for U.S. citizenship is a multi-step process that can take years to achieve," said Sharon Sloan, President of the Carroll County Literacy Council (CCLC). "It is also an expensive process. Just filling out and filing the N-400, the Application for Naturalization form, costs $680."
Sloan attended the Citizenship Workshop because it was designed specifically for teachers of adults who are non-English speakers. "Most of the CCLC's students are native Spanish speakers who work at Tyson or on local poultry operations," Sloan said. "Many of them have lived in Carroll County for years, have children who've graduated from our High Schools, and properly think of the area as 'home'. They're ready to become citizens."
One thing that workshop participants learned is that there are many predatory businesses that offer to help prepare immigrants for citizenship. Most of them advertize in Spanish language newspapers and on radio and television. "These businesses charge hundreds if not thousands of dollars to do what CCLC does for free," said Sloan. "Worst of all, the quality of the services they provide is poor and most customers don't get any closer to citizenship despite paying excessive fees."
The Carroll County Literacy Council's citizenship classes are comprised of one-on-one tutoring, computer-based instruction, dissemination of information and materials from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, English language instruction and skill-building, and assistance filling out forms and navigating the often complex road to citizenship.
"People who pass the citizenship examination probably know more American history than most native born Americans," Sloan said, laughing. "They have to know what the Federalist Papers were all about, whether the Mississippi or Missouri River is the longest river in the U.S., and be able to name the original thirteen states--and that's just the start."
Applicants for citizenship also must be able to read, write, and speak English--there are some exemptions for age and disability--demonstrate understanding and knowledge of the naturalization process, and know American history, how the U.S. government is structured and functions, and be able to describe and integrate basic civics lessons.
"I really appreciate how helpful and professional the workshop instructors were," said Sloan. "The Carroll County Literacy Council is an all-volunteer organization and we have to be careful with how we spend our time and money. This workshop was a good investment of both."
For more information about the free services available from the CCLC, visit their website (hyper linked above) or stop by their offices at the corner of Church Street and Caddy in Berryville.