Thursday, June 28, 2007

EPIC IN ACTION: Taking the Fight for Refugees to Congress

From left to right: Chris Breuer, Julia Stutz, Emily Stivers and Geoff Schaefer were just a few of the EPIC staff and volunteers who helped with our Capitol Hill action on behalf of refugees.Well over 2,000 letters. A week of processing, formatting, and preparing. Two exciting days of hand-delivering to House and Senate offices. Now, at last, we at EPIC would like to thank YOU for taking action on behalf of Iraqis displaced by violence.

Armed with your constituent letters, EPIC staff and volunteers stormed about 300 House and 94 Senate offices. We met with relevant Foreign Affairs staff members in nearly every office, explaining to them about the 2 million Iraqi refugees overwhelming infrastructure in Jordan and Syria, and additional 2 million Iraqis displaced internally.

Our primary objective was to secure support and cosponsorships for recent legislation that would help Iraqi refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The Responsibility to Iraqi Refugees Act (H.R. 2265) in the House of Representatives, introduced by Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Janice Schakowsky, and Christopher Shays, would authorize additional funding to help Iraqi refugees, increase the number of persecuted Iraqis who can be admitted to the U.S. as refugees, and establish a Special Coordinator to lead an interagency response to the crisis. H.R.2265 would also establish special provisions to help protect especially vulnerable refugees, including Iraqis who are in immediate danger because they worked with us.

The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act (S. 1651) in the Senate, sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy, Gordon Smith, Joseph Biden, Chuck Hagel, Patrick Leahy, Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman, would increase the number of persecuted Iraqis (and their families) admitted to the U.S. as refugees, create 5,000 special visas for Iraqis who worked directly with the United States, and ask that we protect those who are in imminent danger of death. It would also establish a Special Coordinator to lead an interagency response to the crisis and would authorize humanitarian assistance to countries hosting large numbers of displaced Iraqis.

Emily Stivers delivers a packet of letters and bill information to Legislative Counsel Greg Chaney in Sen. Stabenow's office.I personally visited about a quarter of the offices in the House and half in the Senate, and I can tell you without hesitation that our message is having an impact. From my experience, staffers with Senators Jon Kyl (AZ), Robert Menendez (NJ), Herbert Kohl (WI), and Debbie Stabenow (MI) were particularly receptive, as were House staffers for Representatives Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX), Vito Fossella (NY), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), and Mike Doyle (D-PA). My fellow volunteers reported similar success in a number of other offices, and overall we are extremely encouraged and excited about the prospects for both bills.

In fact, we’ve had such a terrific response that we’ve decided to keep the Action Center open indefinitely. That means in case you missed out last week, you can still send letters on behalf of Iraqi refugees to your Members of Congress through EPIC. Particularly, we want to encourage EPIC supporters from South Dakota, Mississippi and Nebraska to act, because those are the three states whose Senators we didn't get to visit this week. But no matter what state you're from, please take action - and if you already have, keep passing the link along to your friends!

We will continue to periodically hand-deliver your letters to Congress for you (a service for which the popular advocacy business Capitol Advantage charges $8.50 per letter, but we provide to our members for free*), and keep you updated on the results.

THANK YOU for helping to make this action a great success!!!

*your generous donations make our work possible.


Anonymous said...

Nice to see your website back in action too!

rwst346 said...

We appreciate your efforts!

Emily Stivers said...

Thanks! Sorry we let the blog slide a bit, the Hill drop turned out to be a bit more work than we anticipated. But the success made it all worthwhile, and we're glad to get back to regular entries here again. :)

Anonymous said...

Hopefully your actions and voices will mean something to those you visited. This is an important issue and there are many people waiting who need this help.

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