Members of Congress will be in their home districts from April 30 - May 6. Establishing and strengthening relationships with your Senators and Representatives is crucial to protecting refugee resettlement and holding the administration accountable to resettle at least 45,000 refugees this year and at least 75,000 next year. Every Senator and Representative has an office – often multiple offices – in their home state. Use our RCUSA Toolkit to request meetings and put together a team.
Get a team together: A team ideally includes resettlement staff, refugee leaders, faith leaders from different traditions, volunteers, other community leaders, etc. Be strategic in finding team members who best represent your community’s call to affirm refugee resettlement and whom the Member may already know or respect. Your team should commit to building an ongoing relationship with the office. Check with the scheduler to see how many people their office can accommodate and be sure to plan well, so that you are focused on your message and everyone knows their specific roles.
Learn about who represents your community in Congress: Go to www.house.gov and www.senate.gov to find out which Members of Congress represent you and your surrounding community. Their websites and a “Google” search will show how they have voted before and what they have said about refugees, as well as biographical sketches, campaign statements, past occupations, religion, political and social memberships, areas of interest and positions on other issues, all of which can inform your approach to the meeting.
Have a plan: Meet with the other participants to assign roles, including the facilitator, the personal story, specific points, and the “ask.” Practice by role-playing before the meeting so that everyone feels comfortable and knows what to do. Review your talking points and prepare your leave behind materials. In order to show the broad support, and consider bringing resources contained in the RCUSA Toolkit and media clips of local events and fact sheets showing your community's support for refugee resettlement.
The Facilitator will kick off the meeting by introducing the group, explaining the purpose for the meeting, and providing space for each person to briefly introduce themselves. The facilitator will also jump in if the meeting goes off-track and redirect the conversation.
The Personal Story is key to every meeting. Someone should be present who has either been directly impacted by the resettlement program, or has worked closely with impacted individuals. Telling these stories will show how people's lives are impacted and how your community would benefit from resettlement, as well as the negative consequences of anti-refugee proposals.
Point People on Specific Issues: There will be specific issues your group will want to discuss, which you should decide while planning the meeting.
The Ask is the critical part of the visit when you ask for the Member of Congress to hold the administration accountable to resettling at least 45,000 refugees in FY18 and setting the FY19 goal at at least 75,000. Listen carefully and ask for clarification if what they say is vague.
Schedule a meeting: Call your Member's local office to request a meeting (local office numbers can be found on their websites). Make sure to tell them how many other community members would like to attend. If the member is unavailable, ask to meet with staff who work on refugee issues. You may have to send an email or fill out an online form. Don’t be discouraged if you need to follow-up for a response. Plan for a 30-45 minutes meeting and agree on speaking time with each speaker ahead of the meeting.