Day 1- Feeling the Faith behind Lobbying
We gather on Saturday, March 17 at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Hundreds of Young Adults from 40 States convene to learn how to effectively lobby our government from a place of faith on the topic of immigration for Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) Spring Lobby Weekend. Today we go deep right away to answer the questions: “Why are we here?” and “What stories do we bring?” In small group discussions there is a shared shyness about opening up and telling our stories, but it starts, and our advocacy corps member gives guiding support for what stories are useful when talking to our representatives. When we gather back in our large group of around 400 people, we settle into silence and Friends begin to share their stories. Many of the people who stand up share that they themselves are DACA recipients, or have family members who are undocumented, and whose families have been affected by the criminalization of immigration in the United States. My witness to our lobby topic deepens in the worshipful sharing. In closing worship a Friend stands and quotes Assata Shakur, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Day 2- The Lobby Ask:
On Day 2, Immigration & Domestic Policy Lobbyist at FCNL, Hannah Graf Evans, introduces us to the lobby ask, or in other words, what exactly we are asking our government to do. This is the wording given by FCNL: “We urge Congress to protect Dreamers by enacting a pathway to citizenship without breaking families apart or ramping up extreme border enforcement. Passing protections for Dreamers is just a first step. True immigration reform will require much more to align policy with our shared values of welcome, compassion, and diversity.” You can find the full lobby ask here.
At the keynote today, Greisa Martinez Rosas from United We Dream shared her story and why she fights for people who are undocumented. She also shared with us a Mexican proverb, “They tried to bury us, but they did not know we were seeds.” You can watch the full speech on FCNL’s Facebook Page.
Day 3- Lobby Training.
After a Congressional Staff Panel, we gather in state-groups to plan our lobby visit. I meet with PA but there are other PYM YAF’s who are representing New Jersey. We have an afternoon appointment in Senator Casey’s (PA) office so there is a sense that the pressure is on. One of the most helpful pieces of Spring Lobby Weekend was the Lobby Visit Roadmap they shared with us (FCNL’s strategy for an effective meeting). It includes introductions, thank yous, the ask, and having three people share their stories, followed by repeating the ask, more thank yous and a post visit follow-up email. In our Pennsylvania delegation we identified the people who would be sharing stories today, which included a DACA recipient who is a student at Penn State, a friend from rural PA with a Christ-based faith approach to the ask, and ME! (Before working at PYM I did a lot of work with undocumented communities and I’m grateful I was able bring this experience here.)
In the afternoon we follow the lobby visit roadmap and have a semi-successful meeting with a staffer of Senator Casey. Successful in the fact that Sen. Casey supports our ask. However, discouraging because the staffer believes the Democrats have no power even to get this on the floor right now. As I reflect on the meeting on the front steps of Russell Senate Office Building, Casey walks right up the stairs next to me!
Day 4- Lobbying and a snow storm
Unfortunately on the final day of Spring Lobby Weekend a snow storm picks up and I head off early as to not get snowed in. However the PA delegation kept lobbying and met with staffers of Senator Toomey!