by Kathy Drasky
August was Out4Immigration's first "Visit Your Congressperson" month -- and we are pleased to report it has been a great success.
To date, 10 meetings were held and 4 more are pending (including one with Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office in California). Our members have met with and are scheduled to meet with staffers in their districts in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York and Ohio. In each meeting, staffers were kind, empathetic and promised to take our stories and materials to their boss - members of Congress and the Senate who can make a difference by becoming a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and voting for it on the day it comes to the floor.
We also had reports from our members who attended town halls or picnics and spoke directly with their Representative (even if just for a few minutes) to thank him or her for their support. A number of California members were able to attend an LGBT town hall with Rep. Jackie Speier, one of our major supporters, just this week.
While in some instances, our members were told that it was unlikely a certain Representative would co-sponsor the legislation due to immigration not being a popular subject in their district, we could count on the Representative's vote on the UAFA in the long run because he/she supports equal rights for LGBT people. Rep. Speier was honest with our members and said we should not expect Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) this year. As disheartening as that news is - there is no reason to think that it cannot happen next year - and that gives us even more reason to continue to gather more co-sponsors for the UAFA and to follow the lead of Rep. Mike Honda and his staff as they continue to gather support for the Reuniting Families Act (RFA).
In every instance, these meetings have given us a new perspective on the power of our group and our message, more insight into how Congress works and the painstaking, grassroots steps we must continue to take to bring equal immigration rights for same-sex binational couples up the chain for either the floor vote on the UAFA as a standalone bill and/or its inclusion in CIR, as incorporated into RFA or some other bill not yet on the table.
Out4Immigration gratefully thanks all of you who scheduled and went to these meetings, who took the time and made the effort. Your contribution is invaluable to moving equal immigration rights forward and we now need you to maintain contact with the person you met with, to continue to remind them of the importance of our issue, and to keep relaying any information you receive from your Representative's office to the Out4Immigration group at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also keep in contact directly with Tom Tierney at email@example.com and Amos Lim at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more advice going forward. Tom and Amos, along with Melanie Nathan, were instrumental in creating our meeting toolkit - which is always available for download at: http://tinyurl.com/O4I-toolkit
We also want to thank all of you who tried to get meetings and came up short. Thanks to our volunteer Zoe, who stepped up to help folks schedule meetings, we learned how difficult it can be to get an appointment, even at the local level.
For those of you who are here in the US, and who can step forward, we ask that you continue to try to contact your Congressperson's local office and set up a meeting. If your Representative has already signed on as a co-sponsor of the UAFA, you can still request a meeting to talk with them more about when they think this bill will come to a floor vote, how they think our issue will fare in any discussions on CIR and ask them if they can persuade any of their colleagues to join them in championing equal immigration rights. For those of you who are living in exile, who are unable to attend a meeting - know that those of us here are making these efforts with you in mind. And, that we know if you were here, you would do the same for us.
To everyone who can, please keep writing letters, making phone calls and circulating information through your blogs and all forms of social media. We need to keep raising awareness. By making people aware that harsh discrimination exists in America against LGBT Americans with foreign partners, that immigration rights are decidedly unequal, we will continue to change hearts and minds. And we will make change.