Last week, I meet with staffers from both of my senators’ offices to discuss immigration issues from a United Methodist faith perspective. My senators from Kansas, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, have a lot in common. They are both older white men, Kansas Republicans, and United Methodists. Despite their similarities on paper, my experiences could not have been more different.
First I met with Senator Pat Roberts’ staffer on immigration. Roberts has been in Congress since my parents were kids. The meeting began with amicable introductions and chitchat. I asked them to comment on an anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant campaign flyer that was circulated by the Kansas Republican Party. We discussed DACA, the border wall, and the deportation proceedings of a Kansas United Methodist lay leader. The staffers were argumentative and struggled to see my perspective. They weren’t looking for common ground or solutions. They were seeking to argue me into a corner. I left feeling discouraged about our government.
My meeting with Senator Jerry Moran’s office was completely different. Discussing the same topics, the staffer I spoke with truly tried to see where I was coming from, and asked questions about how my faith shaped my beliefs surrounding immigration issues. We were talking from different perspectives about solutions that could achieve both of our goals. I realized that meeting was what meetings on the Hill were supposed to be like.
After these meetings, here are tips I have for visiting your Congress members as a constituent:
- Start by getting to know the staffer you are meeting with. Where are they from? Where did they go to college? Do you have anything in common?
- Review the Congress members’ voting record, and ask the staff member to explain each vote
- Share a personal connection you have to this issue (i.e. My friend is a junior in college and on DACA)
- Have your ask and repeat it
- Stay calm and respectful, no matter what
- People respond to authenticity. Speak your truth, and share your perspective.