Confronting the Suffering of Refugees and Immigrants: A Toolkit for Interfaith Advocates in South Carolina
The Power of Advocacy
How to be an Effective Advocate and Citizen Lobbyist
How to Organize an Advocacy Visit with Your Elected Official
How to Write a Persuasive Letter to the Editor
How to Plan a Prayer Vigil
THE POWER OF ADVOCACY
Who You Are. Why You Care. What You Want.
It is more important than ever to meet with your local, state, and national policy makers to educate them about the vital role that refugees, immigrants, and all newcomers play in your communities. Because change takes time, meetings with policy makers should be viewed as part of a continuing process of gathering and sharing information, building relationships, and developing and carrying out advocacy strategies.
Be an Advocate
Developing relationships with and educating policy makers is necessary if we want to see welcoming policies and attitudes towards refugees and immigrants. A powerful constituent visit involves impacted communities and allies who join together. Having a team of leaders, staff, volunteers, employers, faith groups, and other community members who meet regularly is essential in building meaningful relationships with policy makers. It is important that policy makers understand that their constituents care about refugees and immigrants, and that refugees and immigrants are their constituents — they live, work, and contribute in their communities, obtain U.S. citizenship, and vote.
Your Voice Matters
Your story as a refugee, immigrant, staff member, or supporter of refugee resettlement and immigration is your most important qualification as an advocate. Talk about the way your community welcomes refugees and the positive contributions refugees make to your community. Refugees, resettlement staff, faith leaders, employers, military veterans, and supportive community members are constituents. Tell policy makers that you care about refugees and they will increasingly vote to support refugee protection and resettlement.
Engaging National and State Elected Leaders
At the national and state levels, individuals who oppose immigration and refugee resettlement are making their voices heard loudly and frequently to policy makers. These groups utilize anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim rhetoric and draft legislation to engender fear and foster hostile atmospheres for newcomers. More than 80 bills have been introduced in the last couple years that would dismantle or significantly damage the U.S. refugee resettlement program. In 2018, we faced 14 anti-refugee bills in 11 states and 10 anti-refugee/anti-immigrant bills in 6 states, as well as 11 pro-refugee bills in 6 states and 67 pro-refugee/pro-immigrant bills in 20 states. If we want policy makers to support positive legislation and oppose proposals that would turn our backs on refugees/immigrants and violate our values of welcome and hospitality, then they need to hear from refugees, immigrants, and supportive community members.
Engaging Local Policy Makers
It is critical for local policy makers to hear from us and affirm that they welcome refugees and immigrants. There are positive proposals that local elected officials can adopt to foster communities of welcome. City, municipal, and other local councils and commissions need to hear that their communities stand ready to help refugees/immigrants integrate and thrive. Urge your local leaders to adopt welcoming resolutions that extend hospitality to refugees and all newcomers.
HOW TO BE AN EFFECTIVE ADVOCATE AND CITIZEN LOBBYIST
HOW TO ORGANIZE AN ADVOCACY VISIT WITH YOUR ELECTED OFFICIAL
HOW TO WRITE A PERSUASIVE LETTER-TO-THE-EDITOR
HOW TO PLAN A PRAYER VIGIL
In an effort to stimulate conversation about immigration issues, interfaith partners are interested in what community members believe about specific principles. Please consider completing our survey of principles and sharing with other stakeholders. You can find the survey here:
People of faith are rightly concerned about the various immigration issues, which have been prominent in the news recently. Please be aware that there are many resources available through our religious denominations and faith-based networks. Following is a list of website links that you might find helpful personally or in working with other people of faith. It’s in alphabetical order, and it’s definitely not all-inclusive of what’s out there. Explore what’s available in your own denomination or religious network. You may be surprised at the resources you find!
Bibles, Badges and Businesses Campaign of the National Immigration Forum
Interfaith Immigration Coalition:
United Methodist Women:
THE DREAM ACT: TALKING POINTS FOR PEOPLE OF FAITH
Summary of the Bill: Introduced by Senators Graham and Durbin, the bipartisan Dream Act would allow young people who have lived in America since they were children to earn lawful status and eventually American citizenship. Applicants would have to show that they are longtime U.S. residents who came here as children; they have graduated from high school or obtained a GED; they are pursuing higher education, have worked lawfully for at least three years, or have served at least two years in the military; and they have not committed a felony or other serious crimes and do not pose a threat to our country. They would be required to pass a background check, pay a fee, and fulfill English language and civics requirements.
Faith Principles: As people of faith, we believe in protecting the dignity of every human being, especially that of our children. Among those protected by this bill are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, a program that has benefitted over 780,000 young people. Many DACA recipients are young adults, who entered the US as children and consider America as home. Many are raising their own children here. Our faiths compel us to be on the right side of history and support a compassionate solution for these young people.
Economic Arguments: As people of faith, we are devoted to our communities and our nation. A study by the Center for American Progress, CAP estimates that ending DACA would result in a loss of $460.3 billion from the national GDP over the next decade. Thousands of young people would be forced out of the workforce, disrupting businesses, hurting local economies and reducing tax revenue. In South Carolina, CAP reports the number of DACA recipients at 6,406, the estimated number of DACA workers at 5,573 and the estimated annual GDP loss from removing DACA workers at $252,065,985.
Suggested Actions: Call Senator Graham at 202-224-5972, and leave him a brief message thanking him for cosponsoring this bill. He needs to be able to tell other Republican legislators how much support he is getting from both sides of the aisle. Then, call Senator Scott at 202-224-6121, and add to the above talking points your heartfelt reason for calling. Maybe you have a personal story to share. Even better, follow these calls with personal letters. Some say handwritten notes are best.
Then, consider the SC United with Immigrants coalition. We could use your support! Find us on the web at www.sc-united.org.
Dear Interfaith Partners,
The SC United with Immigrants Coalition (SCUWI) invites you to join our work in support of immigrant families. SC Interfaith Immigration Initiatives (SCIII) is partnering with other SCUWI organizations and community leaders committed to serving immigrants and refugees in South Carolina.
SCUWI’s work includes:
As many of you know, SCIII is one of the coalition organizations that is advocating for the BRIDGE Act for “dreamers.” However, there are many other ways that people of faith can contribute to the efforts of the larger SCUWI. Consider the objectives above and think about what your religious congregation or you (as an individual) can do to help.
From churches and people of faith, we need:
Please visit our SCUWI website at www.sc-united.org and use the “Contact” tab to let us know your interest. Also, visit www.sciii.weebly.com to connect with other people of faith and learn more about the BRIDGE Act. SCIII will be working closely with Appleseed Justice Center.
Sara Damewood, Coordinator of SCIII
SC Interfaith Immigration Initiatives is an informal network of interfaith advocates for immigrant families. Our current initiative is supporting the BRIDGE Act, a bipartisan bill to protect DACA-eligible immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Read more at the Appleseed Justice Center website:
Sign your support of the BRIDGE Act here:
SCIII partners with Appleseed Justice Center, Carolina Peace Resource Center and other members of the SC United with Immigrants coalition. Please consider joining our SCUWI coalition. You can visit our webpage here: www.sc-united.org/