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McCaskill hosts town hall meeting on immigration issue

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U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), jockeying for a third term as the state’s senior senator, visited with a crowd of residents and supporters at the Guadalupe Centers this past weekend, addressing the future of U.S. immigration policy in the age of President Donald Trump.

With five months until the Nov. 6 Election Day, McCaskill assured those in attendance that she and her colleagues in Washington were doing their best to protect immigrants and to push the DREAM Act through Congress despite GOP roadblocks.

“I’ve been nurtured, supported and lifted up by so many in this community,” she said after being introduced by Guadalupe Centers President and CEO Cris Medina.

Joining McCaskill was U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Mastro (D-Nev.), former attorney general for the state of Nevada, who voiced her support for McCaskill’s campaign.

“When Claire goes to the capital, she brings you with her,” Mastro, who is half Mexican and half Italian, said in her opening remarks. “Your voice is her voice.”

Both women expressed frustration with officials in the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the continued support Trump and his base express for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. McCaskill specifically made reference to the recent separations of families at the border, which now number in the thousands.

“A sea-to-shining-sea wall was not a good idea,” McCaskill noted. “These are people that Donald Trump hired for these agencies, and even they admit it’s a bad idea. I have tried to point out the flaws, and now we are busy trying to address the idea that they are somehow going to deter people from coming into this country by ripping their children out of their arms at the border, and how that policy is doomed to failure. It won’t work. If there’s one thing I know about (the Latino community), it’s family above all.”

Mastro urged audience members to have hope in what she, McCaskill, and other supporters of immigration reform are trying to accomplish on Capitol Hill, despite the divisive rhetoric that the president delivers to his supporters.

“The American dream is still possible for so many people, and that is worth fighting for,” Mastro said. “The challenges we are facing now with the administration is ripping that dream out from under us.”

Mastro continued: “We’re all descendants of immigrants. We all built this country. We have to keep people (in elected office) who recognize that and fight for our families.”

Mastro told those in the audience that they “cannot give up,” issuing a direct call to action for them to vote for McCaskill on Nov. 6, “so we can make sure we are pushing the fight for our families.”

McCaskill promised those at the meeting that she would fight for them and for the DREAM Act, also clarifying her stance on secured borders. She singled out Missouri Attorney General and Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley by name as an opponent who has been especially vicious in his spread of misinformation about McCaskill’s stance on immigration.

“Josh Hawley tells everyone that all I want is open borders. He knows that is going to get him votes,” she said. “I have to be aware that people want our borders secure. We can do that without a wall.”

In response to a question from KC Hispanic News about where immigration reform ranks on her list of legislative priorities, McCaskill said Democrats have already demonstrated their commitment to the cause. She cited a recent draft of a bill that would have granted a pathway to citizenship for nearly 2 million immigrants. That legislation gained 69 votes in the Senate; McCaskill blamed misinformation from GOP senators on its demise.

“They tried to say the language in our bill wouldn’t allow authorities to arrest anybody, and that just wasn’t true,” McCaskill explained.

Discussion about the current administration’s destructive policies spilled out into the crowd, with local immigration attorney Roger McCrummen encouraging those at the meeting to research Trump’s policies and to support Democratic candidates for all offices.

“The problems with Trump’s immigration policy go beyond DACA,” McCrummen said during the question-and-answer period. “There is a focus on the reduction of legal immigration, which is harmful. This is damaging to our economy. There are a lot of people who are ready to support a pro-immigration agenda against this administration, which has put forth immoral policies.”

That agenda would affect undocumented immigrants young and old, including longtime Kansas City resident Anilcar Orellana, who has lived in Kansas for 16 years.

“I have a family here. My construction business is here,” said Orellana, who is originally from Honduras. “We are good citizens.”

Orellana said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement representatives have told him that he has until August to self-deport. His wife would join him, but his children, who are American citizens, would stay in the U.S. Orellana said he would have liked to ask McCaskill what she plans to do for the millions of others in his same situation.

Younger undocumented residents await action from McCaskill and her colleagues as well, including Erika, a recent local high school graduate whose full name is being withheld at her request for her safety.

“I was too afraid to apply for DACA (in 2016), because I was afraid Trump would win the election and I would be deported,” said Erika, who has been accepted to the University of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, on a scholarship designed for undocumented students. “But now I feel like I would have been better with DACA than without it. I feel like I’ve been pushed into the shadows.”

For more information on McCaskill’s campaign, visit www.mccaskill.senate.gov/.