A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of going to DC with FWD.us to lobby for the Dream Act. I’d learned about lobbying in school, like everyone else, but didn’t really understand the power it has and I don’t think many people do either. Not long before this trip I had someone say to me “why bother? Why would these congress members even bother listening to us? Who are we for them to listen to us?”. This didn’t discourage me from going, but this kind of thinking is one of the many reasons I made the effort to be present for this trip.
It seems intimidating and scary to speak to Representatives, Senators, and their staff; but it’s amazing how that fear goes out the window when you start telling your story, because that’s just what we did. We told them how of the struggles we have faced and undocumented youth, how we fight to overcome our obstacles, and the many reasons why we are thankful to be in country and all the things we want to do to give back.
But it wasn’t the fact that they squeezed us into their busy schedule which made me believe in lobbying, it was something one of the staffers said. I was sitting in the office of Representative Robert Pittenger, speaking to one of this staffers(whose name I unfortunately can’t remember). He listened to our stories with interest, answered our questions, and ended the conversation with this:
He said he was glad we were there and he got to hear from us. He told us that the only people they constantly got approached by on the issue of Dreamers, were pastors and church groups. He told us that it made a huge difference to hear the voices and see the faces of the people who are directly affected, that we gave him a better understanding of the issue and our concerns.
Believe it or not, the people in Congress don’t know everything. It’s for this reason(and many more) that we have to lobby, and let our voices be heard. If we don’t speak to these people and voice our concerns, how will they really know how we are affected? How will they know about the contributions we have made in this country and the sacrifices we are willing to make for the place we call home? Are we really going to sit back and let them pass legislations that will affect us without them knowing who we are and what we want?
Lobbying matters because we are the only ones who can truly give a voice to the problem we are facing and will continue to face now that DACA is gone. Just like pastors and churches, there are many other groups and allies that have spoken for us, and although it is appreciated, the point comes across much clearer when it is those affected who speak up.
So why bother lobbying? Because our futures are at stake. Why would these congress members bother speaking to us? Because we live here, we grew up here, we work here, and we contribute here. Who are we for them to listen to us? We are PEOPLE. We matter. Our stories matter. Our future and our families matter. We are are resilient. We are strong. We are Americans, maybe not on paper, but at heart and by the work we have put into being contributing members of our communities.
Lobby not just for yourself, but for those radicals that came before us. The ones who rallied tirelessly, blocked the streets, and were the first to shout UNDOCUMENTED AND UNAFRAID. Without them, all of this maybe wouldn’t be possible. So take the opportunities you are given to lobby, speak, and fight for the cause.