Meeting with the staff of congressmen and women can be a daunting idea. You are trying to convince a public official face-to-face. But like many activities, the more you do it, the more comfortable you get. I was lucky enough to have previous experience before interning at the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach. Right before thanksgiving break my past two years of college, I have traveled with a delegation to Washington, DC in order to promote justice issues to our representatives. Not surprisingly, the representatives and I do not often see eye to eye on these issues.
This disagreement was actually good practice for the last meetings we did. On July 17, we met with the legislative staff of Senators Hutchinson (TX), Cornyn (TX), and Johanns (NE) to talk about passing the DREAM Act. As you may know, this act would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants who were brought to the United States by their parents before the age of 16, among other requirements. Our meetings came after President Obama announced an Executive Order giving relief to these students, but with no way to reach citizenship. We wanted to make sure that the DREAM Act wouldn’t be forgotten. What better way than meeting with those who opposed it in 2010?
We did not have much hope for convincing the senators. The main reason we went was to see what’s going on regarding border issues in general in the senate. Of course we did not change any minds, their constituent base outweighs our efforts, but we were able to learn a lot of about what was going on. For instance, each of them spoke about the political situation of the bill, whether or not it would go to the full senate, other bills they had proposed, and exact reasons why they were against the DREAM Act.
These meetings were one of my favorite parts of the internship. It allowed us to get directly involved in the political system, advocating for a more just country. The experience I gained from these meetings was immense. I grew more confident when meeting with the officials and less afraid to speak for what is right.