I have one of these PFAW posters on a wall in my office. I got it at a May 1 immigration march in Chicago a few years ago. “Today We March – Tomorrow We Vote“. To me, it’s a reminder of my background in political and community organizing, but it’s also a call to action for my clients.
I think it’s important during the National Day(s) of Action to remember that part of our role as immigration advocates is to participate in the political process and to engage our clients in that process.
When we come across “hopeless” cases – people who don’t have any viable options unless there’s a change in the law – we should be giving them the tools with which to work toward changing the law. We should ask about relatives, friends, and neighbors who may be adult US citizens who can vote and help bring about the very changes in law that they need. If a “DREAMer” comes to your office with no real options – why shouldn’t she help organize a letter-writing campaign? How many US citizens might she know who are sympathetic to her situation but who are not even registered voters?
You can find the federal mail-in voter registration form in seven languages on the US Election Assistance Commission’s website. The next time someone comes to your office with a US citizen spouse, friend, parent or sibling, ask those citizens if they are registered to vote. If they are not, take a minute to print out this form, have them complete it, and then mail it in for them. Give them homework – help them find their elected officials and give them an issue to contact them about.
By engaging the community now we can create and expand the networks that will ensure that when the time comes to vote on comprehensive reforms, our clients’ interests are on the minds of our elected officials. It may not be the fastest way to help our clients reach their immigration objectives – but sometimes, it may be the only way.