Immigration reform policies seem to be moving forward in Congress, and a number of folks have asked me recently: so what can I do? I thought I’d briefly highlight seven ways that pretty much anyone can help:
1) Pray. We’re serious about this: I want to challenge you to pray daily. Pray more than daily—that God would direct the hearts of those in authority to make decisions (Proverbs 21:1). If you don’t already know, figure out who your Senators and Representative are and pray for them by name. Pray in quiet solitude. Pray around the dinner table with your family or roommates. Pray with your small group, or with your whole church—make that happen! G92, along with the Evangelical Immigration Table, has been encouraging folks to make a commitment to #Pray4Reform, which also allows us to send you weekly prayer requests and reminders via email or text message. Please click to sign up, or sign up at the bottom (if you haven’t yet), and then think of ten or twelve other people you could recruit to be prayer partners.
2) Call. Use World Relief’s online advocacy center to confirm who your Senators and Representative are and their telephone numbers, and then commit to making a phone call to each at least once per week until their respective chamber of Congress has passed immigration reform. A friend shared a great idea with me: why not set a weekly alarm on your cell phone, with the phone numbers you’ll need to call programmed in, so that you’re automatically reminded to call once per week.
Calling is super-easy. Don’t be intimidated: you’ll probably either get a voicemail message or be talking to a nice, college-aged intern. Just say your name, where you live (they want to know that you’re really a constituent), and that you’d like the Representative or Senator to support common-sense immigration reforms that are consistent with the values of your Christian faith.
3) Visit D.C. Whenever you happen to be in D.C., call your Representative and Senators’ D.C. offices and ask if it is possible to meet with them or a staffer. Or ask if they have any sort of weekly constituent coffee while you’re in town. Show up—maybe print off a few resources from the Evangelical Immigration Table to give you something to talk about—and then basically just explain why this issue is important to you, particularly as a person of faith.
If you’re able, we’d particularly encourage you to join us in D.C. on July 24 for a national #Pray4Reform gathering. Much like a similar event we did in mid-April (on the day, in God’s providential timing, that the Senate introduced their bipartisan immigration reform bill), we’ll have folks coming in from all over the country to worship and pray together, and then we’ll spread across Capitol Hill, meeting with our local elected officials or their staff members.
4) Organize. You don’t necessarily need to travel to Washington to meet personally with your elected officials. They each maintain “district” offices. Why not ask to meet with your Representative (or Senator) at home? You’re more likely to be granted that meeting if you organize a small delegation of folks who can together sign onto a letter requesting the meeting. Could you ask a few different pastors or church leaders in your community to sign onto a letter (perhaps like this one)?
5) Engage your local church. Some of those reading probably are interested in immigration issues because they heard about the topic at church, but many others have become interested elsewhere—from personal experience or the experience of a friend, by reading a book or a blog or an article—and this is a topic that you think your church would not want to touch. But perhaps no one has asked?
Why not offer to teach a Sunday School or Adult Education class on this timely topic, addressing immigration from a distinctly biblical perspective? If it’s helpful, you’re more than welcome to adapt and use the PowerPoint presentation that I usually use when I’m asked to guest teach on this topic; it and many other discipleship resources regarding immigration are online. There’s also a nine-session small group curriculum that can be downloaded for free: why not offer to lead a small group discussion? Or ask your pastor to consider preaching on the topic—the stories of Ruth, Abraham, or Joseph are all compelling immigrant stories in Scripture, with applications for how we respond to immigrants in our society. Many churches have also taken up the “I Was a Stranger” Challenge, asking congregants to commit to reading one Scripture verse related to immigration each day for forty days.
6) Work your network. It’s incredibly important to make phone calls or write to our elected officials, because they absolutely do count the number of constituent calls and letters that come in for or against any particular proposal. But the truth—though it may not seem fair—is that not all constituents have equal access to legislators. Those who have a personal relationship with a Member of Congress—who might not need to call his or her office to express their view to an intern, because they can call a cell phone, or just have a quiet conversation while on the golf course or over dinner—are uniquely important. Donors to a Congressperson’s campaign often have a unique level of access and influence as well. You may not be that person of unique access or influence yourself, but think through who you know who might know your Representative or Senators—and be bold in asking them to have a conversation. You’re blessing them with the opportunity to be a good steward of the influence that God has entrusted to them.
7) Make the News. In most congressional offices, it’s someone’s job to comb through the newspapers and clip any article that mentions or would be of particular importance to the Member of Congress. Getting your story—whether your personal story, or the larger story of local churches embracing immigrant and advocating with them for immigration reform—into the news is probably not as hard as you think. One option is a Letter to the Editor: check your local newspaper’s webpage for specific guidelines, keep the letter short, try to respond to a recent article if possible, and be succinct. An Op-Ed, which is a slightly longer piece that runs opposite the editorial page—is another option (check out these examples). Another possibility would be to plan an event, such as a prayer gathering or a special speaker addressing immigration from a biblical perspective, and then invite a reporter who covers religion or immigration at the local newspaper or for a local television or radio station to cover the event. Press can be a powerful way to help tell our story.
One thing is clear: if you care about immigrants and want to see immigration reform, the time to act is now. Within a few months, the current national debate will likely have died down, either because reform has passed into law or it has suffered a defeat in Congress. My prayer is that the church arises like never before to stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters, pushing just, compassionate, common sense immigration reform over the finish line.
Commit to #Pray4Reform
Matthew Soerens is the co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2009) and the US Church Training Specialist at World Relief. His blogs appear here on Mondays.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92, or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
We’re always looking for new guest bloggers; please check out our Guest Blog Submission Guidelines if you’re interested.