How To Contact Congress About Families Being Separated At The Border To Stop The Policy
After reports of migrant children being separated from their families at the U.S. border, you might be feeling hopeless, helpless, and downright sad — and I don't blame you. But there are processes in place to make your voice heard, and if you're willing, you should use them. Here's how to contact Congress about families being separated at the border to stop the policy.
When you're getting ready to call your officials, it's good to be clear on what exactly is happening. There are two major bills — one in the House and one in the Senate — that have been introduced within the last two months that aim to limit the number of children and parents separated.
But why are they being separated in the first place? In April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered prosecutors to implement his "zero tolerance" policy at the Mexico border — punishing illegal immigrants regardless of whether they are first-time offenders, asylum-seekers, or parents with small children. That policy has apparently contributed to a rising number of unaccompanied children in U.S. custody. In just a matter of weeks, there has been at least one suicide and several other attempts made by detainees in custody, according to Vox.
The sprawling number of military outposts being retrofitted as detention centers is concerning, because the government is taking on a responsibility for human detainees that it cannot reasonably accommodate. MSNBC journalist Jacob Soboroff was among the first journalists allowed inside a shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in Texas, called Casa Padre. Soboroff reported on June 13 that the Casa Padre shelter received a variance from the state because of overcrowding — the space allows for four boys per room, but nearly every room has five.
"I have been inside a federal prison and county jails," Soboroff tweeted. "This place is called a shelter but these kids are incarcerated. No cells and no cages, and they get to go to classes about American history and watch Moana, but they’re in custody."
It's disheartening and profoundly cruel, but you can tell people who can do something about it — your elected officials.
1. If You Don't Know Your Representatives, Look Them Up
There has been no shortage of excuses to contact your representatives under the Trump administration, but if you're new to the process, it's perfectly understandable to not be sure who your representatives are — and who the right ones to contact might be about a given issue. Since this is a federal policy, you need to find your federal officials — senators and representatives. Both the Senate and the House have tools on their respective websites to help you.
Don't call a politician who does not represent where you live and vote. Only messages from constituents (i.e. people represented by that politician) are registered with the official's office.
According Yuri Beckelman, who serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff & Legislative Director for Congressman Mark Takano of California, the more specific you can be, the better. If you ask a very specific, direct question, Beckelman told Elite Daily in March, the office must write it up and research it.
2. Know Which Bills To Mention
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, introduced the Keep Families Together Act in the Senate on June 7. On May 23, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, also a Democrat from California, introduced the HELP Separated Children Act in the House. Mentioning these bills — which both effectively aim to reduce the separation of families with small children at the border by making it illegal — will help guide the operator who answers your call.
If you're not comfortable getting into the weeds of the legislation, simply voice your concern for the welfare of these migrant families, who have nothing and are at their most vulnerable. It's an emotional issue for some, but it helps if you are calm and courteous when you place your call.
You can call the U.S. Congress Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or call the office of your elected official directly.
3. Know The Issue You're Calling About
If your senators are Republicans, consider asking them direct questions about why they support or reject the Keep Families Together Act. Again, the more specific and detailed your questions, the better.
The issue is twofold — prosecuting migrants harshly and separating parents from children are the issues that are exacerbating the migrant crisis at the border.
The policy implemented by the Trump administration (the same "zero tolerance" one that has led to the surge of detainees) says that any migrant family entering the United States without a border inspection will be prosecuted — even though it's a minor misdemeanor. The practice of separating children from their families is apparently unwritten, but there is ample proof that it's happening, according to various media reports. Apparently, even when the family is complying in all respects with immigration law in attempting to seek asylum, the government is snatching children away from their parents, according to The New York Times.
4. Be Kind And Considerate
I get the impulse to be angry. But you can be angry and still be courteous on the phone. Capitol Hill operators will be best equipped to handle your calls if you reach out politely, know what you're looking for, and state what you need.
Once you contact your officials, spread the word! Urge your friends and family to do the same. Post about it on social media. Document the process so that if you decide to call again in the future, it's that much simpler. Last but not least, congratulate yourself for being an active participant in democracy. Good luck!