Reflections from Last Year's HIAS Advocacy Mission

Posted by Sanaz Meshkinfam on Wed, Dec 01, 2010 at 16:15 pm

I am a proud Jewish Iranian American. At the age of 9, I, along with my family, immigrated to the U.S. from Iran. Although my family was resettled through a similar organization like HIAS, the majority of the rest of my friends and relatives resettled in the U.S. through the assistance provided by HIAS. In the last 10 years, I have been involved in almost every single political activism group and in civic, national, and global politics working on political campaigns or on major issues. And so, last year when I heard about the HIAS Advocacy Mission in Washington, DC, I jumped at the opportunity to participate as a HIAS Young Leader. I knew that it was my responsibility to become active in order to make a difference for the thousands of immigrants facing tough obstacles.

The HIAS Advocacy Mission was an exhilarating two-day journey in making a difference in the lives of so many fellow citizens of the world that desperately needed our assistance. Along with 15 other HIAS Young Leaders and members of HIAS' Board of Directors, I attended meetings with White House staff, UNHCR colleagues, and met with Senate and House offices to advocate for immigrants and refugees. Besides having the thrill of being at the center of Washington, DC, the mission provided us with a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the urgent issues related to immigrants and refugees.

Although the word "immigration" nowadays might make us think of illegal immigration or the status of undocumented residents of this country, the focus of the HIAS Advocacy Mission went far beyond that. HIAS, an institution that has been committed to the issues of immigration globally for over 135 years, has offices around the world focusing on the plight of those far less privileged than we are here in the U.S. HIAS has not only been the beacon of hope in seeking a safe haven for so many people who are persecuted religiously throughout the world, but it has also been a voice for resettled immigrants, and of course for all types of immigrants facing obstacles right here in the U.S.

One of the biggest highlights of my trip to DC was when I had the opportunity to make a presentation for advisers at the White House regarding the obstacles faced by elderly immigrants resettled in the U.S. by HIAS. In addition, we met incredible activists working on HIAS’ mission in Africa. And most, importantly, we lobbied our congressmen/women on Capitol Hill on the issues most important to us and our communities. We stood up for all those that have no access to make their cries and pleas heard. It was truly powerful.

I can go on and on writing about the HIAS Advocacy Mission and my activism back in Los Angeles to build successful coalitions to carry on the mission locally; but I am sure that even with the little said here, any of you can tell how inspiring the whole experience was for me and all the Young Leaders.

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