Multiple attendees of Monday's Winnebago County meeting at Forest City's Waldorf University were underwhelmed by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley's answers to their questions about immigration and the situation at the border, Medicare and the farming economy.
Grassley visits all 99 counties of Iowa every year, and has for the past 38 years.
“It helps me a lot in being able to represent my people and know what’s on their minds,” Grassley said. “It’s why I go to every county every year for a Q and A with my constituents.”
The biggest takeaway for Grassley was the people’s interest in the situation at the border and how immigrants are treated, he said.
“I’m interested in it the same way and I thank them for their bringing it up,” Grassley said. “The bottom line of it is I hope the money we have appropriated now will be able to help improve things there.”
Joy Newcom was the first one to bring up what’s going on at the border, saying it’s immoral how the children are being treated down there.
“I’m trying not to cry here, because those families had their children taken away, and the United States government did it, and we need to put them back together to do a better job,” Newcom said.
Grassley said he voted yes on a bill last week that dedicated $4.6 billion to the border and the people there, $2.9 billion of which went to the Department Health and Human Services specifically for the care of unaccompanied migrant children, $1.3 billion to the Department of Homeland Security specifically for housing and care of migrants.
According to Grassley, the bill will also do the following:
• Make 30 new immigration judge teams.
• Create an orientation program to educate the migrants about the immigration process.
• Establish and improve the migrant care and processing facilities at the border.
• Fund migrant medical care, baby formula, diapers, hygiene products and other essential items.
• Provide an alternative to detention.
• Improve the data system and tools so they can track migrants and keep families together.
• Ensure the facilities meet the standards recommended by the medical community.
• Counter human trafficking operations.
• Care for homeless migrants.
• Reunite any separated families.
• Give grants to non-profit organizations who care about families.
“I think the President will sign it when he gets back,” Grassley said.
When the conversation shifted to Medicare for all, Grassley said he thinks it should be preserved for senior citizens, but should not be the health insurance for every person all their lives.
“It’s something that everybody’s paid into their working life, and Congress needs to do yet more to keep it,” he said. “I think it’s part of the social fabric of our society, like Social Security, and it needs to be maintained.”
At the end of the meeting, some people were not satisfied with some of Grassley’s answers and how it went, including resident Connie Price.
“I’m disappointed,” Price said. “He acts like he’s impotent, and he’s a senior member of the United States Senate.”
However, Grassley said people have to remember he is only one vote among 100 in the Senate.
“We try to all reach bipartisanship and so we have the power of a voice, we have the power of committee chairmanships and we have the power working across the party lines to get things done,” he said. “But one senator cannot dictate the other 99 senators.”