As immigration reform continues to move forward, members of the “We Were Strangers, Too” (WWS2) campaign know that leveraging the unique strengths of the Jewish community will help influence key Members of Congress through local advocacy and in-district meetings with elected officials. In-district lobby visits during the upcoming Memorial Day recess (May 27-31) will be critical in ensuring the passage of fair and just immigration reform. Bringing a delegation of faith and community leaders will not only help establish relationships with your representatives, but can also show that fixing the immigration system is important to a breadth of diverse constituents.
Click here to read the most updated Jewish-specific talking points on immigration including messaging, how to leverage personal stories, how to respond to attacks made by opponents of immigration, and words to use and not to use. Feel free to contact us with any questions, and make sure to tell us how your meeting goes!
HOW TO PLAN YOUR VISIT
- Find out who represents you in Congress & know your audience – Go to www.senate.gov and www.house.gov to find out who your Senators and Representative are. Their websites and a “Google” search will help you learn where they stand on immigration, including how they vote and what they have said, as well as other biographical and professional information. To learn about specific bills, visit www.thomas.loc.gov.
- Get a team together – Before you meet with your senators and representative, get a team together that represents your community’s call for immigration reform. It is great when team members are able to commit to building an ongoing relationship with the member and are community leaders who the senator or representative may already know or respect. Aim for 5-10 participants for a visit, but check with the member’s scheduler to see how many people the office can accommodate.
- Schedule a meeting – Call, email, or fax the local offices of your Senators and Representatives to request a meeting with the member to discuss immigration. Make sure to tell them how many other faith and community members and leaders would like to attend with you. If the member is unavailable, ask to meet with a staffer who works on immigration issues. Don’t be discouraged if you need to follow-up in order to get a meeting scheduled.
- Have a plan – Before the meeting, convene with the other participants on your team to ensure that you are focused on your message and everyone knows their specific roles (it always good to assign someone to be a facilitator, to tell a personal story, to discuss specific issue area points, and to make the ‘ask’). It is also a good idea to practice role playing so that everyone is comfortable and you can be sure to discuss all the important elements of the visit. You can also bring in relevant materials.
- Practice your “ask” – If your elected official agrees with your perspective on immigration reform, make sure to express gratitude and ask what they are doing to influence other policymakers. If he/she disagrees with your position, respectfully present information that addresses his/her concerns. If your legislator is undecided on immigration issues, make sure to ask about his/her views and present your case as clearly as possible, also offering to provide additional materials if they would find that helpful.
- During the visit – The visit should have a general outline that includes introductions, sharing of a personal story, specific issue points, and making the ‘ask,’ leaving behind relevant materials, a thank you, and even an invitation to a relevant local event.
For more details and tips on how to set up in-district and national lobby visits, please see the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor Visits Toolkit, JCPA’s Federal Advocacy Toolkit, Detention Watch Network’s 2013 Legislative Packet, and Alliance for Citizenship’s April Recess Toolkit. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information.