Talk to Your Representative During Recess About the Muslim Ban and Watchlist
From July 27th for Representatives and August 3rd for Senators until September 8th, members of Congress will be out of D.C. and in their respective districts for the August Recess. CAIR-DFW is encouraging the Muslim community to meet their US representator and senators during the recess and press them to help repeal the Muslim Ban and end the government’s illegal Watchlist. These policies are not only tearing apart families but are also against the core American values.
How may I help?
The Muslim Ban
In September, the House Judiciary Committee will hold the first ever hearing(s) on the Muslim Ban. They will bring impacted community members to testify about the how the Muslim Ban has affected them, as well as government officials to examine the ban from an administrative standpoint. They may discuss some of the legislation that has been introduced to repeal the Ban, including the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act. The NO BAN Act will likely pass the House, but it is important that it not get watered down. It is also important to prepare Judiciary Committee members for this hearing and give them stories from local constituents.
The Federal Watchlist
Building on the findings of our federal lawsuits challenging the watchlist, CAIR is pushing for comprehensive watchlist reform in Congress. In June, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), in coordination with CAIR, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting more information about one problematic aspect of the watchlist: the government’s dissemination of it to more than 60 foreign countries. Ten other members of Congress also signed onto the letter. In July, Representative Omar introduced an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) requiring reporting on the same information requested in the letter. The passage of this amendment amounts to the most substantive legislative action on the watchlist ever. The House version of the IAA has the amendment, but the Senate version doesn’t which means that it’s not guaranteed that it will be included in the final bill passed by Congress. We need your help to lobby Democratic members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee to ensure that this amendment does not get stripped out when the two versions get reconciled during Conference Committee. Click here to find out if your member of Congress is on the Intelligence Committee and here to find out if your Senators are.
Schedule an In-District Meeting
Most members of Congress have online meeting request forms on their websites, usually under the “Contact” tab. Enter the relevant information regarding your meeting request and make sure to specify that you are requesting an in-district meeting with the Congressmember.
If they do not have an online form, call the D.C. office and ask for the scheduler. They will likely give you that person’s email address. In your email, include your name, the name of the organization, the number, and if possible the names, of people that will be attending the meeting, and the topics you wish to discuss during the meeting. Even if the member of Congress has an online meeting form, it is a good idea to send an email to their scheduler as well. Congressional offices receive a plethora of meeting requests so the more contact you make, the better.
Follow up, follow up, follow up. Not getting a response right away is normal. Congressional offices are inundated with emails and requests so be patient and keep reaching out.
The member of Congress may not be available, but you will get a meeting with their staff. Staff members are the ones actually responsible for drafting bills and policy so having a good relationship with them is just as important.
Before the Meeting
Review the issues you will be talking about.
Connect the issues to the local community. The more you can regionalize an issue, the more the member of Congress will see the importance of addressing it. For example, if you will be discussing the Muslim Ban, find a local story of someone who is impacted by the ban.
During the Meeting
Be prepared and on time. Take time to review the issues you will be talking about beforehand. Make sure to print out any relevant policy factsheets or bills that you will reference.
Pick a group leader to start the meeting. Designating someone to get the ball rolling will help streamline the meeting.
Everyone should introduce themselves, including any local district ties if applicable. Members of Congress will take your concerns even more seriously if they know you are a constituent.
Take turns talking about the issues and the solutions. Be sure to weave in any personal stories but try not to get too much into details as meetings are usually short. The leave behind materials will have more information they can read into later.
Leave behind supporting materials and get contact information for the people you met with. The meeting is just the beginning of the relationship you are trying to build with the legislator. What comes next is just as important. Make sure to get their emails and give them yours.
After the Meeting
Ask for a photo. Share it on social media and encourage other community members to reach out to their elected officials.
Follow up. Reach out to the people you met with and thank them. Provide them electronic copies of any of the materials and ask for progress updates on any requests made during the meeting.