Refugee contractors brought refugee lobbyists to Washington (again) last week, by Ann Corcoran, 6/26/17
They do this every year. It is the sort of thing those of you concerned about an overload of refugees in your communities can’t really do, first and foremost because it is expensive to travel to Washington. And, our pro-reform side has no money!!!
I suspect your tax dollars helped pay for the lobbying organized each year through one of the nine major federal resettlement contractors—Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (headquartered in a posh section of Baltimore).
However, this story from the Huffington Post that focuses on visits to Texas’s two US Senators confirms what we have said and what you should do—keep up the political pressure on your Washington reps from back home! And, I mean, keep it up!
Huffington Post: WASHINGTON ― On a hot D.C. summer day on Tuesday, seven refugees from Texas made their way to the office of their home state senator, Ted Cruz, to do what one does in the nation’s capital: lobby.
The former refugees had come to Washington for the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Leadership Academy, where they had spent the last few days training and strategizing on how to help new arrivals and convince politicians that it was right and humane to do the same. It was the fifth year of the program, with 48 former refugees from 17 states participating.
This year is different from the last four. Now they are operating in the age of Donald Trump, who wants to cut the number of refugees to be resettled in the U.S. and bar them from entry for at least four months.
The Texas advocates are facing an anti-refugee wave at the state level that Trump tapped into nationally. Texas took in the second-highest number of refugees of any state in fiscal year 2016, but its Republican leadership has echoed the president’s approach, last year taking the extreme move of dropping out of the resettlement program, making it the largest state to do so. Gov. Greg Abbott has also tried to bar Syrian refugees from the state entirely. And while Republican officials in Texas can’t legally keep refugees out, they’ve done their best to say they are unwelcome.
Despite the open hostility that is exhibited by their state ― or perhaps because of it ― refugee advocates feel an intense urgency to change minds. That includes Cruz, who supported measures to bar certain groups of refugees and backed Trump’s travel ban, which is now blocked in the courts.
The former refugees knew that having a positive reception from congressional staffers wouldn’t change much, if anything. But they felt that if they met the staff in person, they could work to maintain and grow relationships within the state. After visiting Cruz’s Washington office, Nsenga suggested that they reach out to Cruz’s offices in Texas as soon as possible to request meetings, since they take some time to schedule.
After visiting Cruz’s office they went on to meet Senator Cornyn’s staff and we learned a very important bit of information for Texas taxpayers concerned about the impact of refugee resettlement on the state:
This time they decided to also ask what they could do to win the senator over. They said the Cornyn staffer told them that his office gets a lot of calls expressing concerns about refugee resettlement and hardly any from people who support refugees. [Hint!—ed]
“She said, ‘You can help by educating fellow Texans about refugees,’” Emmanuel Sebagabo, a former refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said afterward.
It was a tangible bit of information that the former refugees felt could serve them well.
…. They [politicians] don’t base their policy positions on whether constituents set up apartments for people resettling in their states, and they haven’t been universally moved by protests against Trump’s executive orders. Politicians care about getting elected and reelected; they care about doing what their constituents call on them (literally and figuratively) to do.
It’s a basic principle of advocacy, but it can get lost when activists are focused on more immediate matters, like getting people resettled in a new country. Now up against Trump, Abbott, Cruz, Cornyn and other Republicans, the refugee advocates got a reminder that they can’t forget about the politics. They need to convince more fellow Texans that refugee resettlement is a good thing, but that requires combating messages from politicians who spread fear that refugees can be dangerous. They need to convince those who support refugees to not just offer places to stay, warm meals and social services. They need them to call politicians’ offices and show up at town halls. Yup! Continue reading here.
Thanks to HuffPo reporter Elise Foley for giving us those important reminders! By the way, this article focused on Texas, but you can be sure they were visiting YOUR Senators and members of Congress too! This article is posted in my relatively new category ‘What you can do’ here.