On Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 230 people from 39 states participated in Advocacy Day as part of CLINIC’s 16th Annual Convening. Participants traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with over 150 members of Congress to advocate on behalf of the immigrants that CLINIC affiliates serve across the country. While advocates for immigration reform were speaking with their elected officials, the Senate Judiciary Committee was in markup of S. 744  - the bipartisan legislation for immigration reform introduced by the Senate Committee.
Advocates pushed for just and compassionate immigration reform that respects the basic human rights and dignity of migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable populations who come to the United States seeking protection and employment to support their families. Participants met with their Representatives and Senators and shared what they believe, from a Catholic perspective, should be included in any comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Advocacy Day fell on only my second day of working at CLINIC, but I learned more about the organization and its mission than I could have possibly learned from a week of orientation or training. In particular, I witnessed the passion and conviction that fuels CLINIC affiliates. Advocates explained their support for immigration reform by recounting their first-hand experiences. They made it clear to their members of Congress that immigration reform is important. One participant described this opportunity as her chance to “put a human face on immigration”--a face that will be difficult for elected officials to ignore once the bill goes to the Senate and House floors.
“I was able to do what I wished for—to be a voice for the people I have worked with and loved,” said one participant reflecting on her Advocacy Day experience. Another advocate remarked, “I am glad I got to see those who represent me, even if I just stopped by their offices. It was important to establish contacts.”
Advocacy Day participants received almost instant gratification from their hard day’s work on the Hill. That night, S. 744 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee  by a vote of 13 to 5. However, the work for immigration reform advocates is just beginning. Now the bill will go to the full Senate in the coming weeks, where strong bipartisan support will be crucial to its passage. Senators Schumer and McCain have said that they “would like to win over a majority of both parties.” Click here  for a short summary of the highlights of the bill and see the Justice for Immigrants campaign’s website for an electronic postcard  you can send to your members of Congress.
*Casey Lee is an intern with CLINIC’s Advocacy Section.