"It's the lived stories and realized dreams of refugees that reach people - the ones that can truly be told only by those who experienced them. The power of being in the same room as those stories are told? That's what will change minds, and ultimately, policy."
The International Rescue Committee in Boise's Community Engagement Specialist, Megan Schwab, traveled to Washington DC to join Refugee Council USA's (RCUSA) Advocacy Days on May 8th and 9th. This broad mobilization effort hoped to show congress the deep support for refugees and immigrants across the US. Over the course of a single day, 300 RCUSA advocates met with over 170 congressional offices hailing from 33 different states - a first both for the IRC and for the wider RCUSA coalition.
Schwab was joined in the Idaho delegation by Agency for New Americans' Etienne Bitentu Tshibwabwa, Tecle Gebremicheal with Church World Service, and Patrick Wangoi, also with Church World Service. The Idaho delegation secured meetings with the offices of each congressional delegate from Idaho, including with Senator Risch (Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) himself.
The advocates brought a local lens and human impact to the nation-wide conversation on resettlement policy. Last year, Idaho was projected to receive 630 refugees, but only 387 actually arrived. In all meetings, the advocates asked Senators Risch and Crapo alongside Congressmen Simpson and Fulcher to ensure that the full 30,000 refugees promised resettlement to the US actually arrive. Furthermore, they were asked to support a ceiling of at least 75,000 resettlement slots for next year.
The group also requested funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement and Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, while addressing questions about pro-refugee legislation: the GRACE Act and NO BAN Act. At every turn, the importance of Tshibwabwa, Gebremicheal, and Wangoi's stories of displacement, resettlement, citizenship, and success impressed upon these legislators and their staff the weight and importance of these policy decisions.
You can amplify the advocates' efforts by lending your voice in support, here.
The IRC in Boise will continue to join its fellow Idaho agencies, nationwide IRC offices, RCUSA collaborators, and most importantly, refugee and former refugee voices in the years to come, advocating to make refugees welcome now and always.