Lesson Seven: Letter to an Elected Official
In order to function effectively, our government depends on citizens who are not just personally responsible, but also active participants in democratic life. One strategy participatory citizens use to accomplish change is to write email messages to their elected representatives. In fact, Congressional staffers rank constituent emails ahead of visits from lobbyists when asked what strategies have the most influence on legislators.
Elected official staffers carefully read, record, and respond to each and every letter received by their offices. For this assignment, you’ll have the opportunity to voice your opinion on immigration reform to Representative Joyce, Senator Brown, Senator Portman, or President Trump. As Congress prepares to debate immigration reform, this seems like an opportune time to let your opinion be heard.
Step One - Select Pending Legislation to Write About
Review the pending bills and position statements linked below and select one that you feel strongly about. You can learn more about each bill by searching the bill number at www.congress.gov
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to reform border security.
H.R. 22: Smart Border Act of 2017. This bill directs the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) to take actions to achieve and maintain operational control of the U.S.-Mexico border. Actions include deploying up to 10,000 national guard troops on the border and implementing smart border technologies.
H.R. 454: To amend the Illegal and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to complete the required 700-mile southwest border fencing by December 31, 2017.
S. 45: A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to increase penalites for individuals who illegally reenter the United States after being removed and for other purposes.
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to deport criminal illegal immigrants.
H.R. 82: Criminal Alien Deportation Enforcemnt Act of 2017. Amends the Foreign Assistance Act to prohibit financial assistance to a foreign country that refuses or delays the acceptance of an alien who: (1) is a citizen, subject, national, or resident of such country; and (2) has received a final order of removal from the United States.
S. 52: A bill to make aliens associated with a criminal gang inadmissible, deportable, and ineligible for various forms of relief.
S.128 - A bill to provide provisional protected presence to qualified individuals who came to the United States as children.
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to deal with sanctuary cities.
H.R. 83: Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act: Prohibits the receipt of Federal financial assistance by sanctuary cities, and for other purposes.
U.S. Refugee Policy
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to keep terrorists out of the U.S.
H.R. 81: To suspend, and subsequently terminate, the admission of certain refugees to examine the impact on the national security of the United States of admitting refugees and to examine the costs of providing benefits to such individuals.
S. 54: A bill to prohbit the creation of an immigration-related registry program that classifies people on the basis of religion, race, age, gender, ethnicity, national origin, nationality, or citizenship
Step Two - Drafting a Letter to an Elected Official
1. After you select one bill or position statement above, determine who you should write your letter to:
- If the bill was proposed in the House of Representatives (i.e. "H.R." before the bill number) then write Rep. Joyce.
- If the bill was proposed in the Senate (i.e. "S.B." before the bill number) then write Sen. Brown or Sen. Portman.
- If you focused on an executive action or administration position statement then write the President.
2. Use the proper salutation:
- Rep. David Joyce should be addressed as "The Honorable David Joyce" or "Representative Joyce"
- Sen. Brown should be addressed as "The Honorable Sherrod Brown" or "Senator Brown"
- Sen. Portman should be addressed as"The Honroable Robert Portman" or "Senator Portman"
- President Trump should be addressed as"Dear Mr. President"
3. Write a compelling introduction that:
- includes the subject, title, and bill number of the pending legislation/executive order that you are addressing
- strongly and clearly states your opinion and what you want the elected official to do
4. A thoughtful body that
- acknowledges and offers rebuttal opposing view(s)
- contains thorough but succinct information about possible courses of action
- contains two or more highly relevant, accurate, and convincing reasons that support a course of action and appeal to the reader
5. A strong concluding statement that
- reiterates your position
- clearly states what solution or course of action you want the elected official to work for
6. Use an appropriate complementary closing:
- Examples include: "Sincerely" or "Respectfully" followed by your full name on the next line.
7. Share a draft of your letter with Mr. Soeder at firstname.lastname@example.org before you leave class today. Mr. Soeder will provide individualized feedback so that you can revise and submit your letter during our next face-to-face session.