Did you know that YOU can influence the future of our immigration laws as well as other aspects of civil life? It’s common knowledge that in this country, money is power, and unless you have it, it can be hard for everyone else to feel like they have a say in affecting political change. But, what most people don’t realize is that even without the power of the purse, they do have rights to address our politicians to propose, support, or oppose legislation. The freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly are constitutional rights. Although some legislators may be more amenable to hearing from voters who are their constituents with the big bucks, one need not be a U.S. citizen and registered voter or have a lot of money to contact local or federal representatives. Although it’s been said many times that one person can make a difference, groups of people with similar issues can make an even bigger impact. There are many examples of political movements of all types that were successful because people with similar interests organized large numbers of people to take action to write, speak and/or demonstrate to make their voices heard. The DREAM youth and the LGBT community are two groups who managed to create significant change in the immigration laws just in the last few years (with a little help from the courts). Telling a particularly compelling personal story will have more impact than mere rhetoric or a sound bite. How has a law affected you or your business? How will a new proposed law affect you, your business, your family, neighbors and/or friends or colleagues?
There are a number of ways to make your voice heard:
- Write letters or emails to your representative. Be sure to tell your story.
- Call your representative – the message should be short and to the point. “Please support (or oppose) XYZ bill because….” Legislators track the number and quality of the calls (and emails). Therefore, these are very, very important.
- Write an opinion piece for your local newspaper.
- Write a Letter to the Editor in response to someone else’s article supporting or opposing the main contention. These should be short.
- Tell your compelling personal story to a reporter. Reporters need a “hook,” and that is usually a human interest story. (If you have legal counsel, talk to your attorney first concerning disclosure of confidential attorney-client information.)
- Attend Town Halls and other community meetings where your legislator may be appearing and sign up or get in line to speak.
- Attend public hearings held by legislators and see if you can sign up to testify.
- VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! (if you are a U.S. citizen and registered voter).
- Join and/or contribute money to organizations that support your values/issues. Work with other organizations to do the same (e.g., grassroots organizing, coalition building, etc.)
- Study the issue. Learn the other side’s point of view and be able to contest those arguments.
- Work on a campaign or otherwise support or vote for candidates who support your values/issues. Help get out the vote.
- When laws or regulations are published for public comment (as required by most agencies to implement a law passed by the legislature), send in your comments! This is a very specific and useful way to impact our laws.
- You, yes you, do have the right to speak with your legislator in person! It may be rather bureaucratic to get an appointment, but it’s worth a try. Ask for your legislator’s “scheduler.” You may have better luck going with an organized group of people with similar interests. Prepare before you go. Develop a list of talking points. Have your position statement ready, along with your “ask” – “please support/oppose XYZ bill.” Tell your story; leave a “leave behind” document; follow up with a “thank you” after the meeting, and if you agreed to follow up on a point, be sure to follow up.
- If you are not yet a U.S. citizen, work toward naturalization so that you can vote.
You can follow the latest opportunities to contribute to the rule making process on our blogs where we post information on proposed regulations seeking public comments. See www.bswasserlaw.com/blog and www.seattleimmigrationlawyerblog.com.
In Washington State, find your legislator here
To find your member of Congress, check here.
The U.S. Capitol switchboard number is: (202) 224-3121.
See our links page for additional government contacts.
For easy ways to Contact Congress about key immigration issues specifically, see the “Contact Congress” tab to the right. Once you plug in your zip code and select your Senator or Representative, you will see a few sample letters prepared by the American Immigration Lawyers Association on key immigration topics ready to customize and send via email.