Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My survey: Finding out what immigrants think of Utah's new Guest-Worker Program (Part 1)

Utah's Guest Worker Program (Utah Immigration Enforcement and Accountability Act, formerly HB116) stayed intact through this spring's legislative session, despite some legislators' threats to repeal it. If things go as planned, the program will start granting state-approved legal work status to undocumented immigrants living in Utah next summer, 2013. Personally, I have high-hopes that this bi-partisan experiment will function successfully. But I have some questions about how things will pan out.

Utah Guest Worker Program Survey for Immigrants
What percentage of undocumented immigrants will actually apply to enter the program? Is there a broad awareness of the program among Utah's undocumented immigrants? What are immigrants saying about it? Are there aspects of the program (in it's current form) that will deter many undocumented immigrants from getting on board? (I'm particularly interested to know if undocumented immigrants will be daunted by the high application fee ($1,500-$2,000), or if many are concerned about the fact that if the legislation changed after implementation of the program, the state would suddenly have record of thousands of immigrants without legal status.) To what extent does/will the immigrant community trust this program?

At any rate, I decided to put together a survey in which I ask immigrants (both documented and undocumented) for their opinions of the program, and their predictions of how well it will succeed without asking leading questions. To the left is an image file of the survey I came up with. (Click here to view or download document from Thanks to some thoughtful friends, I have translations of the survey in Spanish, Japanese, Traditional and Simplified Mandarin Chinese, and Vietnamese.

My goal is to administer the questionnaire to about 200 immigrants. (I see this as more of a pilot study than a quantitative research project). So far, I've had only 47 participants.

Late spring this year (2012), I attended the Rose Park Community Festival, where I wheeled a toddler-bearing stroller, and wielded a couple of survey-bearing clipboards. I walked around for the last hour of the festival asking strangers if they were immigrants and if they'd be willing to complete a confidential survey. When I got home, I was amazed to discover that I'd only surveyed 10 individuals! That's when I decided I'd need to start searching for ELL classrooms.

Guadalupe School
Guadalupe School is a small community education center on Salt Lake's west side. They offer a toddler-preschool early education program, an elementary charter school program, and an adult English Language Learning program in addition to other community classes.

I visited the school twice last month to conduct my study with two classrooms of their adult ELL students. From the Monday night classroom, I administered 16 surveys, and from the Wednesday night classroom, 21. In both classes, the preferred language in which to take the survey was Spanish for every student. I was surprised how many students had questions about the Guest Worker Program before completing the survey. Maybe I should add, "Had you heard of this new guest worker program before today?" as an additional survey question.