Durbin, Schakowsky discuss health care, immigration policy at town hall


Daily file photo by Paige Leskin

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin speaks at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law in 2015. Durbin joined U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and other politicians at a town hall on Monday to discuss health care and immigration.

Ryan Wangman, Assistant City Editor

CHICAGO — U.S. Sen Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) discussed health care, immigration and the investigation of President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia during a town hall in Chicago on Monday.

Organizers planned the town hall — held at the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave. — to challenge the elected officials to offer tangible solutions for contentious political issues. The event’s leaders came from Indivisible IL-5, a group representing constituents from Illinois’ 5th District focused on resisting Trump’s agenda, holding local officials accountable and embracing progressive values.

U.S. Rep Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), State Sen. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) and State Sen. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) were also in attendance.

At the town hall, Durbin said one of his biggest priorities as a congressman was to protect the Affordable Care Act. He said theoretical “easy ways” to solve the health care problem — like buying health care across state lines — were “crazy talk.”

“Health care is not a privilege, it is a right,” Durbin said. “I will not support any change to the Affordable Care Act which reduces coverage, which reduces the number of people who are insured, or forces Americans to accept watered-down policy.”

Republican efforts last month to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a more conservative alternative were unsuccessful. According to the New York Times, Trump told journalists that Republicans were 10 to 15 votes short of what they needed to pass the repeal bill.

On the issue of Trump’s immigration policy, Schakowsky said she would take whatever means necessary to support “sanctuary cities” — municipalities that limit cooperation with the federal government to protect undocumented immigrants. Alongside Quigley and Durbin, Schakowsky committed at the town hall to oppose future funding bills that include money for anti-immigration policy.

Throughout the course of his presidential campaign, Trump promised to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep undocumented immigrants out of the country. He has also pledged to deport millions of people living in the U.S. without legal authorization.

“This is unacceptable in a country of immigrants,” Schakowsky said. “We are going to fight this thing until we win.”

The politicians all committed to pushing for public hearings in the Russia investigation, and to continue to put pressure on the Trump administration to provide all relevant information.

Quigley said an independent commision should be established to investigate the case, along with an independent prosecutor. He emphasized that public pressure has already had an effect, but that the effort will take time and support.

“We’re doing the right thing,” Quigley said. “We’re measured, we’ll get to the facts.”

At the end of the town hall, Durbin praised the crowd for taking time to engage in public dialogue.

“This is how you win elections,” he said. “You start with a committed group of people who are willing to sacrifice some of their time, maybe give up a Saturday morning, maybe a little more, get on the phones … that is the future.”

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