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. 4940: A bill to increase the number of U.s. Customs and Border Protection officers and support staff and to require reports that identify staffing, infrastructure, and equipment needed to enhance security at ports of entry.
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to wind down DACA.
S. 2367: USA Act of 2018. A bill to provide permanent resident status for an alien meeting specified requirements, including having entered the United States when younger than 18 years old and residing in the United States since Dec. 31, 2013.
S. 2464: Three-Year Border and DACA Extension Act. A bill to improve border security and to provide conditional residence to certain long-term residents who entered the United States as children.
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to swiftly remove illegal entrants.
S. 2380: Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act. A bill directing the Dept. of Homeland Security to make an alien inadmissible if such person has been a member of a criminal gang or deportable if such person has participated in criminal gang activities
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to deal with sanctuary cities.
H.R. 4805: No Federal Funding to Benefit Sanctuary Cities Act. A bill to ensure that State and local law enforcement cooperate with Federal officials to protect our communities from violent criminals and suspected terrorists who are illegally present in the US and to stop taxpayer dollars from flowing to cities that fail to comply.
U.S. Refugee Policy
President Trump's Plan: The President's plan to resume the refugee program with enhanced vetting.
H.R. 722: No Funds for Unconstitutional Executive Orders Act. A bill to prohibit any federal agency from carrying out any of the policies set forth in the executive order entitled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States."
S. 2145: No Ban on Refugees Act. A bill to prohibit any U.S. government agency from preventing a refugee from entering the United States based on the refugee's country of origin.
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 email@example.com 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.