How to Connect with Congress regarding Refugees

www.usnews

Confused with Congress?

President Trump is not confused about his view of refugees. But much of congress IS confused whether they support Trump, especially Republicans.  The CHURCH, however, is not confused about refugees (see here, here, or here). As pilgrims passing through—looking forward to a better country (Heb. 11:13-16) and a City with gates the will never be closed (Rev. 21:25)—Christians should always opt for openness to refugees and immigrants. 

If you don’t know how or what to say, this is my letter and phone call to my Representative and Senators. Adopt and use them as you see fit. And please remember, the person you talk to or write should be treated with civility and respect.

This post is about 1) why and how to connect with your member of Congress AND 2) the letter and phone call I plan to make to Peter Roskam, my congressional representative (who happens to be a Republican). If you just want an idea of my letter and you already know how to connect with your Congress members, then skip to the “MY LETTER/CALL TO ROSKAM” section.


 

5 thing to know when connecting with Congress

  1. Why would you consider calling your congress member about the ban on refugees?
    • Participating in a democracy does not end with voting people into office, but entails continually informing your members about your views in regard to their actions and opinions.
    • Most House Republicans have not voiced an opinion on Trump’s executive order yet. We should help shape that opinion.
    • Evangelicals participating in a democracy, especially in having been a huge forces in electing members to Congress and the current President, should continue to exercise their influence in affirming or protesting the actions or inaction of congress members in relation to issues facing America.
    • We contact our congress members, not because we place our hope or faith in officials, but as of rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s within the political process in which we live (Matt. 22:21).
  2. Find your members of Congress (1 Representative by District; 2 Senators by State): Go here.
  3. Identify yourself (this is important especially for communicating with Republicans): If you are a Christian, then state that at the beginning of the call/letter. If you could generally be called an evangelical (even if you don’t use that term very often to describe yourself), then you should say, “I’m an evangelical Christian…”.  If you are a pastor or leader of a non-profit then mention that at the beginning because leaders of groups carry more weight than individuals.  For example, I will identify myself as “A pastor of an evangelical church in your congressional district…” (which doesn’t mean that I’m speaking for my church in an official way, but just that this is the vocation and title that I have).
  4. How to communicate: A 1-2 minute phone is the best way to make your concern known to members of Congress. Mail and email follow that. Social media is basically a waste of time. http://lifehacker.com/the-best-ways-to-contact-your-congress-people-from-a-f-1788990839
  5. How many issues per call/letter? It is best to only cover one issue for each piece of communication. If you have 5 issues you want to bring up to your members of Congress, then write 5 letters or make 5 calls.

 

3 Reasons for Caring about Refugees

A fuller account is of courses needed, but here is a 3-part outline: love of God and love of neighbor, love of foreigners, love of Christ.

  1. When Jesus is asked what is the greatest command he answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27), quoting from Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18. Jesus then gives the famous parable of the Good Samaritan (which could be updated as the Good Syrian Refugee) to explain who a neighbor is, commanding us to “do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
  2. It is interesting that later in the chapter of Leviticus that Jesus quoted from that we hear these words, not about our neighbors but about foreigners. “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 NIV, see also Ex. 22:21; 23:9).  Just as in v. 10 we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves, now in v. 34 we are called to love the foreigner as ourselves. All of this is based in the identity that the Israelites themselves were once foreigners without a land and God came to rescue them from bondage and provide them with a home.
  3. Last is the famous parable of the sheep and the goats when God separates the righteous on account of how they treated Jesus as he came to them disguised as a stranger/foreigner/criminal: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:35).

My Letter to Representative Roskam

Representative Peter Roskam,

My name is Geoff Holsclaw. I am an evangelical pastor in your district (Illinois District 6).

I am deeply concerned that you have yet to state your opinion about or opposition to President Trump’s executive order creating a temporary ban on and extreme vetting of refugees.

Are you—and all Republicans—a prisoner of the president, unable to think or act beyond his prerogative? I hope not! You are certainly beholden to your own conscience and to the concerns of your constituency.

Last year my evangelical church began sponsoring a refugee family from Syria. We support this family because, as Christians, we believe in welcoming all people. And we support this family because, as Americans, we are all descendants of immigrants on see the continuing legacy of this land of opportunity.

As an American, I am deeply troubled that a country founded by immigrants and refugees would give into the baser instinct of fear and self-preservation. Our land of opportunity must continually look forward in hope, hope for ourselves and hope for others.

As a Christian, I am deeply disappointed that a fellow evangelical like yourself would shy away from “acting justly and loving mercy” in regard to “the least of these” who live without a home to return to.

I hope you will be a leader that will direct our country toward building a bigger table open to all rather than capitulating to one who is closing doors and abandoning ourselves to desolating solitude.

I eagerly await your view on this matter.


Sample Call

(Remember that a good intentioned staffer will answer who deserves our respect and courtesy)

Geoff: Hi. I’m a constituent of Congressman Peter Roskam. Can I please talk with a staffer who handles refugee and immigration issues.

(Staffer will probably check my address).

Geoff: I would like to know the Congressman’s view of refugees in American, and specifically his view on President Trump’s newest executive order to temporarily ban incoming refugees.

(Staffer may or may not know this view, if there is one)

Geoff: I would like Congressman Roskam to know that as an evangelical pastor (or evangelical Christian)…(insert points from the letter).

Geoff: I am very concerned about our President’s view of refugees and look forward to hearing how the Congressman will support a different approach.  Thank you for your time.