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Immigration, healthcare, economic security discussed at Pramila Jayapal’s latest town hall

Two evenings ago, on Wednesday, May 2nd, Representative Pramila Jayapal held her sixteenth town hall event at the Seattle Central Public Library.

The discussion served as a stark reminder of how much work needs to be done in Congress to address people’s grievances and society’s shortcomings.

It was also a reminder of how fortunate the 7th District is to have such an engaged and progressive constituency, ably represented by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

Jayapal opened the event by praising the people of the 7th District for being among the most involved in the country. She says her office receives more emails and phone calls than any other district in the country.

In her opening remarks, Jayapal expressed her disdain for the current regime: “There is deep trauma being done to people across our country. People who are facing deportation, people who are barely scraping by. The swamp has grown larger, and the swamp monsters bigger,” Jayapal said.

She then laid out what she called her “proposition agenda”, hitting especially hard on the issues of immigration, healthcare, Social Security, and higher education.

On immigration, Jayapal expressed her frustration that Congress is doing nothing productive. Jayapal stated she would continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform, “including a path to citizenship for eleven million, including family reunification, including a permanent solution for the 1.8 million DREAMers that have only known the United States as their country.”

Healthcare was another major focus of the town hall event.

Attendees voiced concern that for too many people, healthcare is still not affordable, let alone available. Throughout the evening, Jayapal reiterated her support for single payer, universal healthcare. Part of her agenda for healthcare is legislation that would allow states to move to a single payer system.

She said she will introduce the bill in the next couple of weeks.

“If you can show that your plan is going to cover 95% of your state’s residents, then you would be able to expand on the public option waiver that’s currently in law [in the Patient Protection Act] and actually use the federal streams that are available to move towards that single payer system in the state”.

Rep. Jayapal also spoke at length about the College for All bill she introduced along with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont last month.

That legislation aims to make four year public college degrees tuition-free for families making up to $125,000. In addition, the bill would cut student loan interest rates for new borrowers in half and reduce the current student loan debt currently estimated at 1.3 trillion. The Representative noted that student loan debt now exceeds Americans’ credit card debt, and argued that canceling the student loan debt would drastically boost the country’s economic productivity.

One of the final questions Jayapal addressed was simply phrased: “What can we do?” She asked members of the audience to raise their hands if they had relatives or friends who had voted with the Republican Party.

She then asked people to keep their hands raised if they had talked to these relatives or friends about their political views and concerns.

Several dropped their hands.

Jayapal emphasized the need to be an engaged citizen, to have difficult conversations with people of opposing viewpoints, to write or call local leaders, and to attend town hall meetings like the one organized by her office.

Were you at Wednesday night’s town hall with Representative Jayapal? Feel free to share your reflections on the event in the comment thread below.