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Q&A: Covington Young Professional Trains to Lobby for Immigration Reform

Connor Wall, a public relations strategist at Strategic Advisers, LLC, located in Covington, was chosen along with 17 other young professionals to attend a week-long lobbying training program in Washington, D.C. to learn how to lobby for civil rights. This program shed light on the complicated issues associated with immigration reform, why it is such an important issue, and what Wall could do to put pressure on legislators to enact comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform.

Recently, Connor sat down with RCN for an exclusive interview about the program, and his hopes for the future.

RCN: Tell us about this program that you are involved in.

Wall: The program is called Advocacy Corps, and it is through a Quaker faith-based lobbying group based in Washington, D.C. called the Friends Committee on National Legislation, or FCNL. This group strongly believes in peace, environmental sustainability, and equal rights for everyone. Each year, FCNL chooses an issue to assign to 18 young adults chosen from across the country. These 18 make up the Advocacy Corps, of which I am now a member.

A few weeks ago, I went to Washington, D.C. for a week, where I met with staffers from President Obama’s office, Speaker Paul Ryan’s office, and other notable people that have an interest in making immigration reform a high priority issue in 2017. I learned about how this issue became so convoluted and confusing, and some ideas as to how I can make a difference. While in D.C., I also met with staffers from Senator Mitch McConnell’s office, Senator Rand Paul’s office, and Congressman Thomas Massie’s office to introduce myself and express why this issue means so much to me. 

The information I acquired over the week was incredibly helpful for the work that I will be conducting over the next nine months: organizing the population of Covington to express why comprehensive immigration reform is important to them.

RCN: Why Covington?

Wall: Well first, I love Covington. I went to high school here, I live here, I work here, I am a thoroughly native and passionate Covingtonian – or whatever we call ourselves. However, I also think the immigration issue is very alive in our city. Many of the businesses in the area are owned or worked by immigrants, not to mention our strong German heritage, our city's roots are quite literally built on immigration. I know that this city cares about the immigration issue; I’m hoping to show that concern to our senators and representative. 

RCN: What do you mean by comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform?

Wall: Immigration reform is something that is extraordinarily polarizing, especially when considering our current presidential race. Both mainstream candidates have been extraordinarily vocal about their plans for immigration, and both of these plans have extensive pros and cons. However, this issue is a bipartisan problem, and it will require a bipartisan solution.

I’m asking for any proposed solution to think of anyone caught within the immigration process as a person, rather than a faceless individual. For them to see these immigrants as members of our community, members of families, contributing members of our society; instead of numbers found in a statistic. 

I’m also asking that any proposed solution be comprehensive. The immigration system hasn’t seen compassionate legislation in over 30 years, legislation that has been passed deals with the punitive aspects of immigration - granting law enforcement more power when dealing with undocumented immigrants. This is not going to solve this issue long term; we need legislation that deals with all aspects of this problem, in a manner that is fair and reflects the American ideal.

RCN: What are you asking for?

Wall: I am asking Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, along with Representative Thomas Massie to make comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform a priority in 2017.

If you are a member of the Northern Kentucky community, and would also like to express your concern about this issue, contact me at [email protected] so that we can work together.

RCN: Thanks for sitting down us.

Wall: Thanks for having me!

Photo: Connor Wall (provided)