Taking Action in the Time of COVID-19:JRS/USA’s Virtual Advocacy Day 2020

28 May 2020

Even during times of crisis, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA remains committed to its mission of advocating for refugees and the forcibly displaced who are particularly vulnerable as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads.

JRS/USA’s Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator, Josh Utter, advocating for refugees from home.

On Thursday, April 2, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA held its annual Advocacy Day with over 100 advocates participating virtually by sending emails and placing phone calls to their representatives and senators. While in years past advocates typically spread out across Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, this year, as our country grapples with the pandemic, JRS/USA held its first ever Virtual Advocacy Day.

“It was an interesting experience to adapt the advocacy day to virtual and seemed to be an efficient way to reach our local legislators and advocate for important policies and reforms during this current time where meetings in person aren’t a possibility,” said Rabea Ali, student at Manhattan College in the Bronx, New York.

Another participant, Ireland Twiggs, also of Manhattan College, shared that “I really enjoyed this experience and I am so happy that JRS was able to convert this experience to be virtual — the work it is doing is so important, even more so during this crucial time in our history.”

Advocates represented 27 states and the District of Columbia and included students and faculty from various Jesuit educational institutions, namely Jesuit High School Portland, Georgetown Prep, Georgetown University, Creighton University, Fairfield University, Loyola University Chicago, and Regis University.

Participants focused on three priority areas: (1) Remember Refugees in COVID-19 Response, (2) Ensure Refugees Can Return to School, and (3) Protect Asylum Seekers. With over 650 emails sent to Congress regarding these issues, JRS/USA and its advocates made sure a collective voice was heard on behalf of refugees and the forcibly displaced during this uncertain time.

Some advocates arranged and participated in virtual meetings with their policymakers. Students and staff of the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice (SCSJ) at Creighton University set up up a call with Senator Tina Smith’s Office (D-MN). Reflecting on the virtual experience, Alyssa Beasley, Graduate Assistant at Creighton University’s SCSJ, said “As things move virtually, the need for civic engagement is critical. The legislative visit re-affirms my commitment and obligation of working for justice.  I feel honored to have members of the Creighton community come together to join the mission of JRS/USA.”

“I think in so many ways, we’ve all been reminded in the last month the myriad of ways we’re all connected and how our decisions ripple around the world. But I think it’s also reminded us how we belong to one another. This experience of advocating digitally in solidarity with so many students around the U.S. was encouraging, enlightening, and empowering. Can’t wait to do it in person!” said Conor Reidy, Campus Minister at Manhattan College.

If you missed Advocacy Day, know that you can still take action with JRS/USA by visiting the Advocacy Day web page.