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4 tips for talking with your congresspeople about immigrant rights

News & Commentary  |  By Peniel Ibe, Jul 26, 2019

The August recess presents an opportunity to reach your representatives about issues that matter to you.   

Immigrant communities continue to face numerous attacks under the Trump administration. In just the past week, the administration took steps to bar large numbers of refugees from seeking asylum in the United States – while ramping up immigration raids in cities across the country.  

It’s critical that we turn up the pressure on our members of Congress, who have the power to disrupt Trump’s detention and deportation machine.  

For the month of August, members of Congress are at home in their districts during congressional recess. This is a great time to reach your representatives and talk to them about the issues that matter to you.  

Here are some tips and resources to help you meet with your elected officials during the August recess – and call on them to work for immigration policies that promote inclusion and opportunity instead of fear and hate.   

1. Familiarize yourself with the issues you plan to discuss with your representatives. 

Congress is now negotiating bills that would determine not only whether millions of immigrants can safely remain in the U.S., but also whether we treat people with the humanity and compassion we all deserve.  

Here are two issues now under consideration that would impact millions of immigrants across the U.S. – and resources to help you learn more about them.  

Creating a roadmap to citizenship for people with certain immigration statuses, like Dreamers. 

The Trump administration has taken steps to end protections for more than a million immigrants who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Although recipients have been granted temporary relief by court decisions, we need legislation to provide permanent protections.  

Recently the House of Representatives passed the Dream and Promise Act, a bill that would offer a pathway to citizenship for people with TPS, DED and DACA. There’s still a long road ahead for this bill to become law. The Senate must also pass a similar bill, like the Dream Act of 2019 and the Secure Act of 2019.   

Learn more about the TPS campaign.

Defunding ICE and CBP  

For decades, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have separated countless families, caused the deaths of people seeking refuge, and terrorized our communities. It’s time for Congress to stop funding immigrant detention, deportation, and the militarization of our border communities.  

Congress is currently negotiating funding levels for ICE and CBP. Our elected officials should defund these abusive agencies and invest our tax dollars in education, health care, and other programs that strengthen – instead of tear apart – our communities. 

Learn more about the Defund Hate campaign.  

2. Research your representatives' positions on welcoming and protecting immigrant communities.  

Did they vote in favor of protecting TPS, DED and DACA recipients or sign any “Dear Colleague” letters calling for cuts to ICE and CBP’s budgets? 

Here are some ways to find out:  

  • Find out if your representative voted in favor of the Dream and Promise Act here. Find out if your senator is a co-sponsor of the Dream Act of 2019 here and the Secure Act of 2019 here
  • Find out if your member voted in favor of more funding to detain and deport immigrants. See how your senator voted here for how your representative voted here
  • Visit your members’ websites to see their general voting record and what committees they sit on. That can give you a sense of what kinds of messages might move them, such as arguments in support of respecting the rights and humanity of all people.   

3. Find ways to engage with your representative in person or online.  

  • Schedule a meeting with your representative with a small group of other advocates. Even if you cannot meet with your senator or representatives themselves, you can meet with their staff or drop by their office. This is a step toward establishing strong relationships with your members of Congress, which is crucial to holding them accountable for the policies they create. Find your representatives contact information and local office here.
  • Find out their public schedule for any town halls, community events, etc. You can call your member’s office for their schedule or visit their website. Town Hall Project also keeps track of all public town halls across the country. Town halls are a good place to approach your member of congress, ask them questions about the issue, restate your values, and get their responses on record.  
  • If you can’t schedule a meeting, reach out to your members on social media. Post on social media about your experience at town hall meetings or anywhere else you’ve engaged them. Include photos or videos when possible and tag them to get their attention.  Here are some tips to help you talk about immigration to build support for more humane policies.  

4. Prepare for your meeting. 

Schedule a meeting: It’s best to call your member's local office to request a meeting. Make sure to tell them how many other people would like to attend. If the member is unavailable, ask to meet with staff who work on immigration issues. You may have to send an email or fill out a form. Don’t be discouraged if you need to follow up for a response. 

Before your meeting, prepare an agenda: Make sure all participants are clear about what they’re asking of the representative. If you have collected postcards, petitions, or other supporting documentation, bring them to the meeting. Take a photo of your meeting and follow up with a thank-you note. 

Download and print out some handouts: These can help you make the case for why we need to protect TPS, DED and DACA recipients and why we must Defund ICE and CBP. They are also useful to leave behind for your members and their staff to revisit.  Get our handouts on TPS, DED, and DACA and on Defund Hate.   

Let us know how it went! Email advocacy@afsc.org with feedback from your meeting.  

More resources: 

About the Author

Peniel is the policy associate at AFSC. She is interested in international development, humanitarian crisis management and public policy. She is an immigrant from Nigeria who recently relocated to the United States and is advocating for the rights of others like her.