It was different being on the other side of Capital Hill and not to be working in a committee’s office but rather talking to a staffer about important issues with a different focus. I was on the other side of the Hill with an agenda and mission in mind.
In the fall of 2010, I had the wonderful opportunity to intern for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security under then Chairman Bennie Thompson. This experience definitely opened my eyes to the legislative process about Congress as well as how issues are pushed forward in Congress. Yet, now in the non-profit sector, I have definitely learned about another way to fight for an issue, a passionate fight that never ceases.
I recently visited Senator Barbara Boxer (CA-D) and Senator Diane Feinstein (CA –D) with my CCAO supervisor and Ariel Presbitero, a Columban associate based in Los Angeles, CA, to converse with their legislative staff about the potential funding cuts to refugee aid in the Fiscal Year 2011 Budget. My presentation skills were definitely tested that day, but I can say that as much as presentation skills counted, so did the message. Although the Hill was in uproar that day over the budget, I hoped that my few words on the issues gave voice to the hopes of the millions domestically and internationally that depend on refugee aid.
That same Wednesday, I attended a meeting at the State Department regarding Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for migrants from near the U.S.-Mexico Border. Ariel Presbitero’s testimony about human trafficking and TPS not only enlightened the State Department representative but also enlightened me and assured me that my cause was true.
After an eventful day on the Hill and then a productive meeting with the State Department, I realized some of the differences between the advocate and the legislator. No, there aren’t any heavy political filibusters between CCAO and other Catholic organizations, but rather there are the voices urging us to go on for their cause internationally together as Christians. It has been a great experience working with CCAO because the agenda for advocacy never ceases and it transcends multiple organizations.
I have seen two different sides of the legislative process: one from the side of the legislators and the other from the side of the constituents. I am grateful to have the opportunity to engage with both sides because both hold weight in the choices for the welfare of all human beings. As I look towards the future, I am sad to see that I have only two weeks left with CCAO. I am very thankful of my time here as I have learned the real meaning of being an advocate for humankind globally.