[Jesus] said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Choosing Welcome is a public expression of our love for God and neighbor. In the day-to-day acts of compassion and mercy toward those who have come in search of safety and promise, we proclaim God’s love for the world. When we join prayer vigils and meet with our elected officials, we do so because we hear the people’s cry for justice and want to hold our government accountable to all our neighbors.
What is your voice?
All too often the voices that are heard by Congress and the Administration are those with the money and power to hire lobbyists or make large financial contributions. That means that the voices of those most affected by immigration policies are not heard by those who make our laws. Their voices are shut out or even locked away. As people of faith we advocate for a more just and humane immigration system by amplifying the voices of those whose lives depend upon it.
If you are a former refugee or immigrant, your lived experience of the U.S. system provides a unique and important perspective that elected officials need to hear. Consider who might be able to accompany you to support you during the visit. If it isn’t possible to set up a visit, try writing a letter. You can also send photos or a video to U.S. citizen friends and allies who can share them as part of their visit.
If you are a pastor or member of a local congregation who has direct experience in welcoming a refugee or asylum seeker, you have a lived experience of accompaniment and have seen firsthand the good and the bad about our refugee and asylum laws. How has your faith informed your experience? What are your expectations of how the U.S. as a country should act—and what is the role of government?
Perhaps the most effective way to meet with an elected official is as a small group of people with a common concern and different experiences and perspectives. For example, if you are advocating for refugee resettlement and integration, consider including a refugee or former refugee, an employer of refugees, or a teacher or volunteer who has worked with refugees in your group. As a team you can demonstrate support for a common goal (such as rebuilding the U.S. resettlement capacity to receive more refugees) and build on each other’s comments as to why the Senator or Representative should take that particular action. This same approach works well at the State and local level. The PC(USA) Immigration Advocacy Asks document is a great resource for developing talking points around what to “ask” Congress to do this year. Can’t find time to meet in person? Consider calling, emailing, or even tweeting!
Important Dates to Consider
Late summer into the early Fall is a great time to meet with members of Congress because they take their longest break of the year from their work in DC to go home.
August Recess 2021 (August 7–September 10)
Contact your Representative or Senator through their District Office to set up a virtual or in-person meeting.
Act now and urge the Senate to include a pathway to citizenship in the budget reconciliation.
The new federal fiscal year—and the new resettlement goal of 125,000 refugees—begins. Congress must approve the appropriations (funding) for refugee resettlement and other government operations for them to continue without interruption.
Here are 3 new resources to guide your congregation as it takes action.
- We Choose Welcome Action Guide 2021
- Immigration Advocacy Asks 2021
- Tips for Online Meetings with Congress
The Welcoming the Stranger webinar series
The series continues on August 19th at 5 p.m. Eastern with a focus on Pathways to Citizenship followed in September with a focus on Family Detention. Get notifications of upcoming webinars through PCUSA Office of Public Witness emails by signing up here. Past webinar videos are available on Vimeo.
The Faith Partners World Refugee Day Toolkit is still relevant, including the Advocacy section that highlights bills in Congress to support refugees and asylum seekers.