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Old 03-23-2013, 04:46 PM
sage2006 sage2006 is offline
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Default My experience

What a week!! More than 100 IV members attended over 200 congressional meetings last Monday and Tuesday. All the folks are still busy with various critical follow-up tasks with various offices and as everyone gets back to their routine and reflect over their experiences, I am sure there will be lots of posts, pictures on this thread.

After a thorough training session on Sunday, the mood was very upbeat. We had members from almost all 50 states (which by itself was a huge achievement) and in addition several members had traveled all the way with their families and kids. Kudos to them. The meetings started on monday morning 9 AM and the situation room was abuzz with everyone ensuring they had their schedules in place (everyone had 5-7 meetings lined was going to be a busy day) and that they had the required materials for the meeting. By 8:30 several groups were already out the door heading towards Capitol Hill. The excitement was at an all time high. However throughout the day, along with the excitement of the Congressional meeting, what was at the back of everyone's mind was the big momentous event in the evening that we all had been waiting for.

The meetings for Monday were scheduled to end early since we had to be at an exclusive briefing at the White House. Our cameras started clicking at the entrance gate to the WH itself . We made our way to the WH auditorium and once inside we couldn't help getting over-awed by the venue and realizing how far we had come. Here we were, a grass-roots group of professionals, going to be addressed by a panel comprising a top WH policy advisor, a USCIS official and other senior administration officials.

Three IV members were given the opportunity to share their testimony and each was very impressive and well received by the WH staff. Anisha, Rajat and Rithvik our young volunteers (who also sent out the IV newsletter the night before) did a very impressive job representing our issue of GC backlogs and the various provisions that would help eliminate them.

During Q&A, IV members covered almost each of our issues (increase in EB number, dependent/STEM exemption, per-country caps, visa recapture, H4 EAD, kids aging out etc etc) and the responses were very positive.

As stated above some key statements/feedback from the WH panel were "We hear you loud and clear" and "We got your back" with them adding that most of our provisions are already part of the WH outline and Senate draft..thanks to our advocacy over the years, and past 2 years in particular. What was also amusing was how the WH advisers kept stating our provisions verbatim ..which showed the hard work of persistently going back to DC over the past 6 years is paying off. Another key takeway was when the admin officials highlighted the importance of our participating in the advocacy process and asked us to keep up the grass-roots momentum in the weeks to come.

This is my 6th visit to the Hill as part of Team IV and as always, I left with a sense of empowerment and fulfillment of having a chance to make our voices heard. Discussion on forums is good, but, only when you are inside those offices, do you understand, what really goes on vis-a-vis policy making and how easy/difficult it is to get a bill passed. And we also realize that debates and discussions on forums purely based on news articles is usually way off target.

On meeting up in the situation room after the meetings, a common reaction from first time attendees was - "we need more people to stand up", "why did we not do this before" and "I am so glad and fortunate to have taken this first step and come to DC".

Overall, feedback from the meetings was very positive but at the same time we must not lose focus. There is some tough work ahead of us to keep pushing and make sure our provisions are high on the agenda for immigration reform this year. Our timing was perfect since intense discussions on immigration legislation is going on and all offices (which are by now very familiar with IV and our provisions) appreciated all our feedback. Look out for several grass-root IV AIs in the coming days/weeks.

For the active day-to-day volunteers, it has to be reiterated that the WH visit was a joyous and emotional experience. The proudest moment was when the WH senior imm policy advisor thanked IV for our efforts on the Hill and specifically called out Aman for his leadership and persistent efforts on high-skilled immigration reform. It was a truly memorable moment.
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