On Sunday, a report in Politico announced the president's plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program designed to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation. If you're concerned about President Donald Trump's plans for DACA, there's someone you can talk to — your congressional representative. While the idea of speaking with a member of Congress might sound daunting, it's important to make sure your voice is being heard. Moreover, it's a lot easier than you might imagine to call your congressional representative about Trump's DACA decision.
Although it's impossible to predict the full implications of Trump's move to end DACA, his plan is expected to impact nearly 800,000 people. Begun under President Barack Obama in 20120, DACA enables young people who entered the United States illegally as children to stay and seek work permits or attend institutes of higher education for renewable two-year periods. According to NBC News, DACA advocates estimate that 97 percent of the program's participants either work or are in school.
So how can you connect with your Congressional representative over DACA? First things first; reaching out to your representative is significantly easier than you might have thought. If you're not sure who your congressional representative even is, you can quickly look them up using your zip code here. Once you've found your representative, visit their official website to find their contact information. It should be fairly easy to locate on their website.
While there's more than one way to contact your representative, Emily Ellsworth, a state-office staffer for Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart, has admitted that certain methods of communication are better than others when it comes to snagging your reps' attention. For example, Ellsworth cautions against relying on social media to make your voice heard. While your best friend may keep on top of all your Twitter mentions, the representative serving your congressional district in the House of Representatives probably doesn't.
If you really want to get on your rep's radar, don't write, call. In tweeting her tips for reaching out to congressional leaders, Ellsworth said emails and letters arrive by the hundreds and are often sorted and responded to with topic-centered form letters. So while your message will be tracked and noted, there's a good chance it won't be shared individually with your representative.
Picking up the phone and dialing your representative's district office (that's the office or offices they run in your state as opposed to the office they keep in Washington, D.C.) is reportedly one of the best ways to ensure you speak directly to a member of your representative's office staff. However, it always helps to do a bit of research before picking up the phone. So, while you're pulling a phone number off your representative's website, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with where they stand on DACA and Trump's plans for the program.
When on the phone, communicate that you're a constituent. State why you're calling and elaborate on your thoughts and concerns regarding the president's plans for DACA. If immigration and ensuring protections for Dreamers are personal issues for you, share why. Don't be afraid to get personal. Former New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson tweeted that constituents' personal stories were an effective way to gain her attention when she was in office.
Follow up your comments with questions. Ask if your representative plans to oppose Trump's DACA decision. Or, if you're happy with the work your representative has already taken on protecting DACA and Dreamers, communicate that.
If calling your representative to discuss legislative issues is already a part of your weekly routine, keep it up! Consider reaching out to family and friends to encourage them to get to know their own representative. Share with them how easy and empowering civic engagement can be. It's also worth noting that representatives generally serve a district within a state and thus have fewer constituents than senators, who serve the entire state. This means that your concerns are likely to get picked up on faster if you call your representative. That being said, it's not a bad idea to follow up a call to your Congressional representative with one to your state senator.
While calling a member of Congress can be intimidating, it can be an important and effective way of getting your voice heard in government. So do a bit of research, jot down a few notes, take a deep breath, and pick up the phone.