How to organize a legislative visit

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How to Organize a Legislative Visit with Your Senator and/or Representative!

drafted by HyunJoo and Sookyung on 4/23/2009

1. Find out who represents you in Congress. Go to www.senate.gov and www.house.gov to find out who your Senators and Representatives are.

2. Do the Background Check. Refer to online biographical sketches or check campaign statements, news articles or additional sources of information to learn the Member of Congress’ occupation, religion, political and social memberships, areas of interest, and positions on issues such as the economy, health care, the environment – as well as immigration. This information can help inform how you approach your meeting. Resources for this include http://www.votesmart.org, http://www.opencongress.org/wiki/Wiki_Home, and http://www.ontheissues.org .

3. Check in with Allies in DC or at a state organization: There are valuable resources in Washington, DC and elsewhere with background knowledge on the roles that Representative and Senators played in past rounds of immigration reform. If you are part of a national or regional/state network or organization, we encourage you to talk with your point person on immigration. Please let this organization know that you have scheduled the visit with the specific US Representative or Senator.

4. Scheduling a Meeting: Call and ask to speak to the member’s scheduler in your home state/district, or write a letter to request a meeting. A sample letter to request a meeting is attached. When you speak to the scheduler, explain that:

  • You are a constituent from X (city or town in their district/state).
  • You would like to set up an appointment to meet with your Representative/Senator (or his/her senior staff) and are interested in discussing a specific issue area, such as immigration, education, health care, affordable housing, etc.
  • You will be attending the meeting with X number of leaders and/or students from your state/district.

A note about timing: Depending on the time of year, you should contact their “District office” or their “D.C. office.” Several times a year, Congressmembers are “on recess,” which are designated periods when all legislators return to their home state/district to meet with their constituents. Otherwise, Congressmembers are in Washington, D.C. If you cannot travel to D.C., check the Congressional calendar (http://www.house.gov/house/House_Calendar.shtml or http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/legislative/one_item_and_teasers/2009_schedule.htm) and schedule a meeting during a recess period.

If the office does not respond to you, call or write again and be persistent! Remember that they are our public servants.

In addition, you can as a constituent ask if the Representative/Senator is holding any public events, such as townhalls or constituent meet-and-greets. If so, get the details and ask how you can attend. You can use these events also for organizing and advocacy purposes.

5. Determine Who Should Be in the Meeting. Who best represents your organization or coalition that can also help to build a relationship with this Member of Congress? Are there close allies that could build trust or respect with this Member of Congress, if they came? Is there a family that is directly affected by our unjust immigration laws? Be sure to assign roles to participants, including the lead/facilitator.

6. Prepare your materials. Included in this Grassroots Action Kit are materials you should give to your Member of Congress: 1) Korean Americans and Comprehensive Immigration Reform fact sheet 2) NAKASEC DREAM Act Fact Sheet 3) Korean Americans and Health Care 4) The suggested letter that we are asking the Member of Congress to send to President Obama 5) Two Fact sheets about immigration and the economy 6) Quotes from President Obama and other leaders about their support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

You may also want to include other materials, such as news clippings.



Sample Letter or Email to Request an Appointment during a Congressional Recess

The Honorable (Member of Congress Name) United States Senate (or United States House of Representatives) District office address and city Fax number or email address: [This letter should be faxed or e-mailed, not mailed]

Dear Senator (Last Name) or Dear Representative (Last Name):

As a constituent of [your State or your District], [your organization] is writing to request a meeting with you during the upcoming Congressional recess between <date 1> and <date 2>.

We would like to talk with you about the need for <issue area> in 2009. We are part of a nationwide effort to keep work on <issue area> in 2009.

We hope you will take the time to meet with us to listen to our perspective and concerns and have a dialogue with you. We look forward to meeting with you. Please contact [your organizational contact] to set up a meeting. They can be reached at [phone and e-mail]. We will also follow up with your office.

Sincerely,

Name City, State Phone and e-mail

How to Make Your Legislative Visit Memorable and Effective

Remember – you are a representative of your community to influence the legislative debate on an issue you care deeply about. Your participation and input is critical.

  • Dress appropriately. You are representing an organization and your community. This does not mean that you have to wear a suit, but please dress in a presentable manner that is appropriate for the weather and comfortable.
  • Arrive early. By arriving at least 15 minutes before the meeting, you will have an opportunity to introduce yourself, get acquainted with all the individuals participating in the legislative visit, agree on the objective of the meeting, and assign roles.
  • Assign roles. Before your meeting, make sure that people are designated to moderate, take notes, and to ask the legislative staffer or the Member of Congress at the end of the meeting to support the policy goals. Lastly, speaking roles related to providing stories and policy should also be assigned. This will ensure that multiple people do not end up talking about the same point and that each person has an opportunity to speak.
  • Be succinct. While the meeting might originally be scheduled for a certain amount of time, many factors can make it go longer or shorter. What’s important is that each person can share their points. To that end, be prepared to communicate your points in 1-2 minutes.
  • You do not need to be a policy expert. Your member of Congress and their staff are here to hear your point of view. Talk about your personal experience and how the issue affects you, your family, and friends. Tell them if you live in their District or State. You should review the talking points and the frequently asked questions so that you have some facts. If you do not know the answer to a question, tell them, “I will get back to you later,” write it down, and share with the campaign organizers. We will follow up with them accordingly.
  • Disagree without being disagreeable. The member of Congress or their staff may make comments you disagree with. Counter with clear, positive, and substantive points and avoid unnecessary arguments. Stay focused. Do not get side-tracked even if the staff or the Member of Congress may make unrelated points.
  • Remember to listen and let them speak. We must take this opportunity to gather intelligence and ensure support of the policy goals. Be prepared to ask specific questions about potential champions, opponents, timing of votes, or policy content. Complete with the ask: “Do you commit to strengthening DREAM Act?” If yes, a follow-up question could be, “Are you interested in working with us to communicate your support to your peers?”
  • Get the card and/or contact information of any staffers you meet.
  • Document your meeting. Fill out the “Legislative Visit Report Form” and send it to NAKASEC.
  • Send a thank you email or note. Include additional materials or provide additional answers to questions that came up during the meeting. Follow up on anything you promised.

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