On Tuesday November 29, Boston College President Fr. William Leahy signed two statements in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), one of President Obama’s executive orders that Trump has threatened to repeal. The executive order gives protected status to certain undocumented immigrants who enter the country as minors.
Leahy’s actions come as part of a rise across campus of actions and events aimed at responding to the election with support for those threatened by its results. Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors, a student group out of the Volunteer Service Learning Center, hosted an advocacy training this week to educate students on how to effectively contact their members of Congress. They publicized their training during the week with lawn signs on the quad highlighting the difficult truths about being an immigrant or a refugee trying to enter the United States. Their goal was to dispel common myths about immigrants and refugees, and to catch the attention of students interested in making a difference on issues regarding them.
The lawn signs advertised their training session, which took place Thursday, December 1. At the training, CRS Student Ambassadors explained that they usually focus on international humanitarian aid issues, together with the aims of the wider CRS organization. However, the group has significant experience with advocacy efforts, and after the election they wanted to share their knowledge with anyone who wants to make their voice heard by politicians. Advocacy skills are applicable across a wide range of issues, and give students the chance to fight for their values in the political sphere.
Speaking to a room of about 20 people, the Ambassadors started with the basics of advocacy: how to pick an issue, have a specific end goal, target an audience and form a core working group. The ambassadors displayed several websites and an app that gives up-to-dates about current legislation, helps find contact information for your members of Congress.
The presentation then turned to tactics that get the attention of members of Congress. They explained how to use social media to advocate effectively, which included using short, direct messages with memorable hashtags and powerful images. Frequent posting by a large group of people will often draw the attention of a senator or representative. Next, they talked about the easiest means of advocating on an issue with your representatives: form letters from advocacy organization, such as the Ignatian Solidarity Network and Catholics Confront Global Poverty. These websites will send requests when legislation is up for a vote, providing an email form letter to which one can add a name and a personalized message to send to a member of Congress. The CRS Ambassadors explained the importance of personalizing these form letters, as that vastly increases their importance to members of Congress.
Next the Ambassadors covered written letters and phone calls. Both should include a personal connection, factual evidence in support of the stated position, and a clear request for action like voting yes or no on a bill, or adding a specific amendment to legislation. After the training, CRS Ambassadors asked participants what they had been hoping to learn from the training, and what they felt they had gained. One participant said that she’d always wanted to be involved and make a difference on legislation, but that it had seemed intimidating and complicated. “Now it just seems easy, accessible,” she said.
CRS joins Fr. Leahy and a host of other student organizations in fighting for those who are vulnerable in the wake of this election. They plan to continue hosting trainings next semester to carry on this work of solidarity and support.