Advocacy Days United Refugees and Leaders to Drive Legislative Change

Abdi Iftin | May 25, 2023

In the month of May, Refugee Council USA’s Annual Advocacy Days kicked off with great enthusiasm, bringing together a diverse group of over a hundred delegates, including refugee leaders from across the nation. This event was filled with energy and personal engagement as we had the opportunity to interact with our state senators. Among our primary objectives was to urge our congressional representatives to address several crucial legislative issues.

Firstly, we emphasized the need for conducting oversight on the U.S. administration’s implementation of permanent protections for forcibly displaced people. It was imperative to ensure that these protections were effectively put into action, safeguarding the rights and well-being of those who have been displaced from their homes.

Secondly, we called for the endorsement of legislations aimed at welcoming refugees and strengthening access to permanent protections. The global refugee crisis demands that our country, known for its exceptionalism in resettlement and services, leads the way in providing support and assistance to those in need. We firmly believed that our nation should not turn its back on the most vulnerable individuals, but instead, stand as a beacon of hope and compassion.

Lastly, we advocated for the enactment of robust funding for U.S. resettlement and humanitarian protection programs. The funding for these programs plays a vital role in ensuring that refugees and asylum seekers receive the necessary support and resources to rebuild their lives and contribute to their new communities.

During the Advocacy Days, it was inspiring to witness the gathering of individuals who had firsthand experience of refugee life, many of whom were unable to return to their countries of origin. Our personal stories held the power to shape the perspectives of our representatives and instigate positive change. As part of the Church World Service team, comprised mostly of former refugees, we highlighted our own narratives to advocate for policy changes at the government level.

Over cups of coffee and slices of homemade blueberry bread, I had the opportunity to sit down with my Maine senators and engage in discussions surrounding pressing issues related to housing, resettlement, and state policies. It was a productive dialogue where we shared our concerns and hopes, seeking their support to address these critical matters.

As the Advocacy Days came to a close, we felt a sense of accomplishment in successfully delivering our message to our representatives. We departed, returning to our respective states, with hope that our senators truly heard our plea. We trusted that they would prioritize refugee resettlement and recognize the urgency in considering and supporting programs that fund and assist refugees and asylees.