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. 85: Fund and Complete the Border Wall Act: A bill to establish a separate account in the Treasury to hold deposits to be used to secure the southern border of the United States, and for other purposes.
H.R. 522: No Walls Act: This bill prohibits using available funds to build any new border barriers through a declaration of a national emergency.
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to wind down DACA.
S.197:Protect DREAMer Confidentiality Act of 2019: This bill directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prevent disclosing information from applications to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), except to implement the program.
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to swiftly remove illegal entrants.
H.R. 98: Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act. This bill makes aliens associated with criminal gangs inadmissible for entry into the United States and deportable, and establishes procedures related to designating groups with criminal gang status
H.R. 1078: Repatriate Our Patriots Act: A bill to prohibit the removal from the United States of certain veterans, and to expedite their naturalization.
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to deal with sanctuary cities.
S.388: Families, Not Facilities Act of 2019. A bill to reduce the ability of I.C.E. to engage in inappropriate civil immigration enforcement actions that harm unaccompanied alien children and to ensure the safety and welfare of unaccompanied alien children.
U.S. Refugee Policy
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to resume the refugee program with enhanced vetting.
H.R.364: SAFER Act of 2019: A bill to provide for additional security requirements for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and for other purposes.
S.RES.32: A resolution recognizing Jan. 27, 2019 as the anniversary of the first refugee and Muslim ban, and urging the President to demonstrate true leadership on refugee resettlement.
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 ""Representative Joyce"
- Sen. Brown should be addressed as "Senator Brown"
- Sen. Portman should be addressed as "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. NO CREDIT WILL BE GIVEN FOR LATE DRAFTS. Mr. Soeder will provide individualized feedback so that you can revise and submit your letter during our next face-to-face session.