Last month, I went with Peter to Washington, DC to discuss immigration policy with several of Michigan’s Representatives in the U.S. Congress and both U.S. Senators as part of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) annual National Day of Action (NDA). The goal of the NDA is to educate our elected representatives about immigration, to advocate for immigration legislation reform, and perhaps most importantly, to make our voices heard. Nearly 20 AILA members comprised the Michigan delegation, but hundreds of AILA attorneys from across the country participated in the event by visiting their own state’s elected officials.
I believe this trip, and the annual efforts by AILA to organize this event, was effective. Those with whom we met were receptive to the information we provided and expressed interest in hearing our perspective as supporters of comprehensive immigration reform. Although not all of Michigan’s elected representatives agree with our belief that immigration laws must be reformed on a large scale, they were at least willing to listen and consider the benefits of reform, as well as the detriments of the status quo. At the end of the day, I felt as though we were successful in our mission.
Despite our success on that day, we are still a long way from our goal of achieving immigration reform. That one trip alone is not enough to accomplish that goal. Each office we visited on Capitol Hill made clear and reiterated several times that if we want to see comprehensive immigration reform, they need to hear from more constituents who support immigrants and immigration reform. The stacks of letters and hundreds of phone calls received by the Representatives and Senators are very persuasive taken as a whole, and certainly go further than one visit by small groups of AILA members. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the communication they receive about immigration is anti-immigration reform, and is largely anti-immigration altogether.
Therefore, if you believe in the positive impact immigrants have on this great country, and if you believe we can improve our immigration laws (and should), please make your voice heard! Representatives and Senators will not act in your favor if they do not know where you stand. Let them know what you believe and encourage them to sponsor or support immigration reform, and that they should act now.
To be effective, it is not necessary to know the intricacies of current immigration laws or the details of proposed laws. It is enough to simply call or write your elected representatives to say, ‘I support immigration reform. Please sponsor or support immigration reform now.’ Of course, passion and detail can go a long way so if you are willing to tell your own story, or share the story of someone you know, consider sharing it with your elected representatives. Whether that story is about a dream come true or a living nightmare, our representatives on the Hill need to know.
My fear is that if we do not actively seek the change we know is needed, we will miss a golden opportunity and will be stuck with the many harsh, overly restrictive, and outdated laws currently in place. To let this chance pass us by is to endorse these very laws.
Please see the links below for your convenience.
U.S. Senate directory and contact information: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
To identify who your U.S. Representative is and link directly to their website:
Immigration news, facts, and talking points: