Constituents visiting their Congressional representatives at district offices can be powerful voices in advocating for positive refugee and immigrant legislation.
Before the Visit - Be Prepared.
- Know about your Senator or Representative. Research your legislators' voting records, committee assignments, professional experience, etc.
- Write or call your Representative or Senator. If he or she is not available, make an appointment with a legislative aide.
- Set an objective for the visit. Do you want your legislator to take a position on an issue or a specific bill? Limit the number of issues to be discussed. Bring background information you would like to share with the legislator.
- Contact the Office of Migration and Refugee Policy for background materials on immigration and refugee issues or if you have any questions about contacting your legislator. Call 202-541-3208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the Visit
Introduce Yourself and Your Organization.
- Describe your role in the community and how you can help the Representative or Senator understand the local impact of immigration and refugee related legislation.
- Give an overview of the issues you want to discuss and any background information you may have.
- Give him or her a business card with your address and phone number.
- Discuss each issue separately. Be positive and constructive. Do not assume that the member is an expert on the issues. Give background information - the member or the aide may not even understand the difference between a refugee and an immigrant.
- Provide human interest stories. How would specific legislation affect your community?
- Conclude by asking the member or aide to take some concrete action on your behalf: cosponsor specific legislation, send a letter to other members on the appropriate committee, or sign or start a "Dear Colleague" letter. Get a response regarding his or her position on the issue(s).
- If the member is introducing legislation, ask for the bill number and for a copy of the bill or a draft.
- You may be asked questions for which you do not know the answers. Tell the member or aide that you will find out the answer and get back to them.
- The member or aide may disagree with you. Do not argue with him or her. Respond positively, respecting his or her position and offer to supply information as to why you hold your position.
- Write a thank you letter in which you summarize the discussion.
- Follow-up on commitments made during the meeting, especially if you said you would provide additional information.
- Invite the member to visit your organization or to speak at an event which honors refugees and immigrants, such as a naturalization ceremony or a national migration celebration.
Migration and Refugee Services
3211 4th Street, NE, Washington, DC 20017
Tel. 202-541-3208 Fax 202-541-3399