Southwest News Herald
Cong. Dan Lipinski said he voted against the recent border bill regarding undocumented children entering the U.S because the bill does not effectively deal with the issue.
Immigration was the primary topic during a town hall meeting Lipinski (D-3rd) sponsored on Aug. 6 at Oak Lawn High School.
Lipinski voted against the $694 million border bill, which passed by a vote of 223-189. He voted “present” on a companion bill that would halt President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has provided renewable legal status for about 500,000 people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Neither bill is likely to pass the Democrat-led Senate. House Republican leaders delayed voting on the bills in order to garner enough support.
The meeting originally had been scheduled for July 31 but was postponed because the House of Representatives stayed in session a day longer than expected in order to vote on two immigration-related bills last Friday.
Many questions centered around illegal immigrants, particularly the thousands of minors from Central America now entering Texas and Arizona through Mexico.
The issue struck close to home with many immigrants attending the town hall meeting. A college student born in the Philippines said he and his parents and younger sister overstayed their visas when he was a child because his sister needed life-saving heart surgery. A woman told of her family fleeing war-torn El Salvador in the 1980s.
“We didn’t cross just one border, we crossed four,” she said, adding that the legalization process is costly.
Lipinski said he voted against the border bill because it would not have allowed border crossers claiming to be fleeing violence and persecution to have hearings before being sent back to their countries.
“We have a humanitarian crisis at the border,” Lipinski said. “First, we need to make sure we take care of those children who are really fleeing from issues where they are unsafe (due to sexual abuse and other crimes in their home countries). We have to have a system where they can make their case and potentially receive asylum.”
He said the bill would have removed protections for children who are being abused by human traffickers or who face persecution at home.
“My heart goes out to children around the world who face terrible poverty,” Lipinski said. “But the United States cannot give asylum to every child in that situation. It would not be sustainable. But we should care for those who are truly in danger.”
Lipinski said the second bill, for which he voted “present,” was deliberately vague and supporters couldn’t say how it would affect those who have DACA status now.
“I don’t want to take away deferred status from anyone who has it, but I also didn’t want to send the message that it is OK to come here illegally,” said Lipinski, adding that he also opposes President Obama taking unilateral action on immigration.
Lipinski called for “comprehensive immigration reform,” and secure borders.
Pointing to current estimates of 11 million people being in the country illegally, he said, “I don’t believe it is possible to kick all 11 million people out. I also don’t think we should allow all of them to stay.”
He said the borders must be secured, and Congress will have to determine how many of the undocumented can work toward obtaining legal status.
Lipinski said the number of illegals has tripled since 1986, when President Reagan granted amnesty to the estimated 3.6 million undocumented immigrants who were here.
“He said the borders would be secured first, but enforcement never happened,” Lipinski said.
Employers must be forced to hire only people legally able to work here, he said.
Luanne Tierney, of Oak Lawn, pointed to the native countries of those trying to cross the border.
“Why aren’t we speaking out about human rights to the Central American countries such as Guatemala and others where these people are fleeing from?” she asked.
“We should speak out more,” Lipinski agreed. “America is the land of freedom and opportunity. We need to stand up for freedom and human rights around the world, and defend them here too.”
Disagreeing with those claiming that illegals take jobs and benefits, Dennis Ryan, a vice president at Holy Cross Hospital, said they actually have contributed $500 million to the Illinois economy and usually cannot access benefits they have paid into.
Many irate audience members spoke out against President Obama. One woman claimed “this lawless president is ignoring the Constitution,” and she said Congress needs to “reign him in.”
At the end of the meeting, a man demanded that Lipinski vote for the impeachment of Obama if he takes any unilateral actions on immigration.