Newly elected Rep. Antonio Delgado, of Rhinebeck, stopped in Pine Plains for his first town hall in Dutchess County on Friday night. He talked about a wide range of issues, from the government shutdown, to border security, to safety in schools. Video by Jack Howland/Poughkeepsie Journal
PINE PLAINS – Following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would sign a measure to reopen the federal government, Rep. Antonio Delgado called the action only a “temporary fix” to the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
The newly elected congressman, who represents New York’s 19th District, said though the federal workers who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay will soon receive their backpay, there are lingering effects of the shutdown that need to be addressed. He will call for hearings to get to the bottom if there were any “lapses or delays that affected people’s lives,” he said, and to discuss the issue of border security and Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall that led to the shutdown.
Trump had threatened to keep the government shut down until he received $5.7 million in funding for a border wall, but reversed course on Friday, signing legislation to reopen the federal government through Feb. 15, according to USA Today.
Delgado, a Rhinebeck resident, said he met with countless people during the 35-day shutdown who weren’t getting paid, and he voted 11 times to reopen the government. But “it became a debate around a campaign promise,” he said, and a question of which side would give in.
“I don’t know why people have to suffer, and worry about their next paycheck, to have a real conversation about border security. Which I can speak to, and say we certainly need to work on border security,” Delgado said during his second town hall with around 100 community members in Pine Plains on Friday night. “We should be able to have that debate without putting us through what we just had to go through for 35 days.”
He also said: “I’m determined to not find ourselves in this position” on Feb. 15.
Delgado outlined his vision for keeping the government open at the end of three weeks, as Trump maintains he needs funding for a border wall and could shut down the government again if he doesn’t receive it. He said congress members need to work across the aisle to find “opportunities for cooperation, if we just put aside demagoguery.”
He also spoke about issues ranging from his plan for a universal healthcare system to possible environmental initiatives like a carbon fee and dividend to safety in schools. But, talking on the day the shutdown came to an end, he focused much of his time on the issue of border security.
Raymond Nelson, 62, of Millerton, told Delgado he’s sick of hearing fights over the wall, and believes “the idea that we’re going to quibble over this $5 billion is stupid to me on the size of our economy.” He asked: “Are you for the wall?”
Delgado responded that he wasn’t, but said “I want to be clear, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in border security.
“It just means that I’m listening to what the experts say,” he said.
He advocates for a border control mechanism that provides “operational control,” he said, so “you can actually see all 2,000 miles at one time and monitor the activity.” He said he believes there are possible technological options that could offer an aerial view of the border.
But he also said the ongoing discussion about an apparent crisis at the border has only served to “muddy the waters,” because he doesn’t see illegal immigration on the border as an imminent threat.
“It’s order. It’s just order,” Delgado said. “It’s understanding who and what is coming over our borders, and how, and for what purpose.”
He said there needs to be comprehensive immigration reform, creating a “clear regulatory framework” for those who wish to immigrate to the U.S. It’s a topic, he said, “we can’t even get to because we’re talking about a wall.”
He added that he believes “that much of the rhetoric around the wall is grounded in a desire to divide. It’s divisive.”
Carin Goldberg, a 65-year-old Stanfordville resident, said after she heard Nelson’s question about the wall, she wanted to ask Delgado to articulate his position on the state of the border. She disagreed with Nelson, and said she thought it was an example of disinformation spreading around.
“From my point of view, this has been a lot of fear mongering on Trump’s behalf,” she said. “What’s the truth about why we need whatever we need over there on the border? I was hoping it would clarify to people who have maybe been influenced by the fear factor.”
Delgado, who was speaking in his first Dutchess County town hall, said he wants to be “as great a congressperson as I can possibly be” to his constituents, regardless of party. He said he wants to be “a genuine advocate on your behalf.”
For the next three weeks, he said, that means fighting to make sure the government stays open.
“Here we are now,” he said. “These next three weeks, we have to really bear down and be cooperative, and put the partisanship aside, put the games aside, and do the work.”
Jack Howland: firstname.lastname@example.org; 845-437-4870; Twitter: @jhowl04
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