- By Cro Owens, Staff Writer -
Earlier this month, I attended Spring Lobby Weekend (SLW) in Washington DC. SLW brings together young adults from across the nation to train them to lobby and have them lobby legislators in their DC offices on a particular issue. This year, SLW aimed to create a direct pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and end extreme border enforcement. We had several notable keynote speakers, including Greisa Martinez Rosas, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, and Rep. Jim Himes.
Since I work for FCNL, I was drafted to facilitate some of the breakout sessions–the first of which was storytelling. In lobbying, the most important tool you have is your personal story, why you care about an issue and why legislators should too. In my group, about 20 people each shared their own story about immigration. I was impressed–many of them had very personal connections to immigration, and those that didn’t still articulated their feelings. For example, one admitted no personal connections to immigrants, but noted she studied sociology, and related that to her feeling that our current treatment of immigrants was unjust. Another aspect of SLW was the “Birds of a Feather” program within our lunch hours–anyone could start a group based on anything. There were groups for introverts, mental health advocates, Native Americans, and even diabetes patients. Over 500 people attended, but through all the sessions and groups, we were all able to get just a little bit closer.
On the last day, we all lobbied. It was cold and raining, a winter storm on the horizon, but we walked to the capitol to have our voices were heard. I went to visit Senators Burr and Tillis’ offices with the North Carolina delegation, which included about 25 of us. It was difficult to organize our group since each meeting with the senators’ offices only lasted 25 minutes, but we prioritized the most memorable stories and kept the meetings focused. Tillis was already supportive of immigrants, but Burr was a hard sell. Regardless, I think our presence made a difference. I can only hope that those who lobbied that day are inspired to continue to lobby for the rights of DACA recipients, and any other issues that individuals may care about.