In all of our work, we adhere to the political maxim that all politics are local. The key to our community’s successes in the future will be the extent to which we effectively organize (whether in local party clubs or caucuses), build relationships with state parties and elected officials, increase voter registration, organize Get Out The Vote (GOTV) drives, and leverage our influence with candidates, incumbents, as well as national policymakers.
While our #YallaVote initiative leads efforts to educate, register, and mobilize Arab American voters, we also provide resources to support any and all efforts to engage elected and appointed officials. There are many effective ways to engage your representatives to build the relationships, visibility, and influence our community needs in order to advance our shared, unique issues.
Below is a list of methods for reaching out to policymakers in Washington, DC as well as in your state legislature that we hope you will use. For more information, to find opportunities to collectively engage alongside other Arab Americans, to have AAI assist you directly, and for further advocacy resources, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To join campaigns that AAI is leading, click here.
A personal visit is the most effective way of communicating with your representatives, and can take place in your home state or in Washington, D.C. Here are some useful tips:
- Schedule a meeting with your members of Congress for three to five local Arab American community leaders. Members have very busy schedules even while in recess, and going in as a small group of prominent local leaders rather than individually both demonstrates the seriousness of your meeting request and maximizes the members' time. Call the office or send a letter outlining what issues you would like to discuss and who will be attending the meeting.
- Whether you’re requesting a meeting in Washington, DC or in a field office, you may be scheduled to meet with a Congressional staff member. Staffers have considerable influence on their bosses, who rely on them for information and briefings, and also have a strong grasp on the issues. Treat a meeting with a staff member as you would a meeting with your member of Congress.
- E-mail or fax an issue brief or a short agenda for your meeting. This lets your members of Congress know what concerns you have, gives their staff time to do any necessary research, and lets them know that you respect their schedules and plan to keep the meeting brief. After the visit, send an email thanking the member for his/her time. Emphasize that you appreciate your representatives taking time to listen to your views and concerns, and that you look forward to continued cooperation between the member of Congress and the Arab American community inhis/her district. Include a brief summary of the issues discussed and your views.
In today’s fast-paced working world, one of the most effective ways to get your representatives to pay attention to your concern is to contact them in a public forum. Facebook and Twitter are two powerful ways to identify yourself as a concerned, engaged, and attentive constituent.
You can find out if your representatives (and any other elected official for that matter) are active on social media online here: http://govsm.com/w/Main_Page
If you would like to write a personalized letter, please keep the following tips in mind:
- Identify yourself as a constituent
- Keep the letter concise, polite, and to-the-point
- Note the name and number of a particular piece of legislation in the letter
- Follow up with a phone call a week or two after sending your letter
Because postal service to the US Congress is significantly slowed by security protocols, we strongly recommend that you contact your representatives by phone, fax, or e-mail.
You can also get the attention of your representatives by writing letters or op-ed pieces for your local press. For more information, check out our guide, How-To Engage the Media.
Personal phone calls are a common and easy means of communicating with your member’s office. Please keep the following phone tips in mind:
- Always identify yourself as a constituent
- Ask to speak to the relevant legislative assistant or caseworker
- Always be polite
- Follow up with a letter reiterating your concerns
You can find the direct office line online, or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121
Schedule a Town Hall Meeting
A great way to grab the attention of your local and national representatives is by inviting them to speak at a town hall meeting in his/her district. You can schedule a town hall meeting by working with community organizations and your city council; a town hall really is just a nice name for a large gathering of constituents. You can use this sample letter to invite your representatives.