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Lowenthal looks to upcoming election for change in national leadership

Townhall meeting includes discussion of wide range of national issues

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Photos by Paige Pelonis | Signal Tribune
Rep. Alan Lowenthal addresses nearly 600 guests at his townhall meeting Monday at Millikan High School.

The nearly 600 people who attended Rep. Alan Lowenthal’s (CA-47) townhall meeting Monday at Millikan High School heard one point repeated several times by the congressman throughout the night: vote this November.

“The soul of our nation is being tested,” Lowenthal said to the nearly 600 people who attended his townhall meeting at Millikan High School on Monday. “If you don’t vote, and you don’t tell people that you know […] to vote, and if people are not involved in changing the House of Representatives, this nightmare will continue.”

Lowenthal committed the majority of the time at the townhall to answering a wide range of questions from the audience, and he anticipated that the most common topic of conversation would be President Donald Trump.

“I thought the most common questions would be issues, questions, fears, whatever it is, all about Trump,” Lowenthal said. “It’s real clear that I disagree with the President […] but he’s the President, and as such, I speak with respect, even though I disagree with him tremendously. It’s kind of a balance.”

James, 10, from Long Beach, asked Lowenthal about Trump and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“I want to keep DACA alive, and, as you can see, I’m 10 years old,” James said. “I’m a kid too, and I support DACA to save all of the immigrant children. I think this immigration problem is getting out of hand. Does Trump even care?”
Lowenthal said DACA is one issue that may have to wait for the upcoming election before Congress can move toward providing protections for DACA recipients.

“We should’ve fixed the DACA problem in 2013 when we did comprehensive immigration reform,” Lowenthal said. “But because of the far right, they got to the Speaker of the House, and that led to it never coming up for a vote. There are about 30 Republican members of Congress that want to sign the discharge petition, that should be encouraged to do that, they could go home– they would take on their leadership– but they would be hailed as heroes in their districts if they would do that. Short of that […] we will have to wait until after the election.”

James, 10, from Long Beach, asks US Rep. Alan Lowenthal about DACA at a townhall meeting Monday at Millikan High School.

Jeff from Long Beach, who did not disclose his last name in order to protect the identity of an Iranian refugee who is one of his many Muslim friends and the subject of his question, asked Lowenthal about Trump’s Executive Order 13769.

“What Congressional legislative action is possible, or what would you be willing to support, in response to Mr. Trump’s Muslim ban?” Jeff asked. He shared a story about his friend who, because of her leadership in the Iranian Green Movement in 2009, was arrested, imprisoned and tortured for two years by what he referred to as “the Iranian secret police.”

Jeff said that his friend was forced to flee after being released from prison and she was granted asylum in the United States, where she joined the Army. Her family is unable to join her in the U.S to help her care for her 3-year-old daughter because of the travel ban. He said she is also ineligible to serve in the Army counterintelligence operations because her family lives in a foreign country.

“I think the only chance to deal with the Muslim bans […] is now in the courts,” Lowenthal said. “We’re not even dealing with the Dreamers, so Congress is not going to take up anything. Even in the horrors of when the Trump administration talked about the Muslim ban, and we all said this is discriminatory, this is an attack on a religion […] this is just a way to cleanse the nation of a particular religious belief, and we spoke out against it. We could not get Republicans to want to raise the issue against the President at this time. I think that’s an issue that will be raised by the Congress if the nature of the Congress changes in 2018.”

Additional topics for the evening included Social Security, health care, education, immigration, foreign affairs, the environment, civil rights, gerrymandering and a handful of specific local concerns. Lowenthal’s office indicated that nearly 1,000 people signed up to attend the townhall.

Lowenthal said he thinks attendees came looking for answers during what he called “a very unsettling moment” for the country.

“They didn’t just want to have another lecture,” Lowenthal said. “You know, you never answer adequately for everybody all the questions, but I try to answer all the questions. And I think what people left with is, ‘Well, he tried.’”

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Lowenthal looks to upcoming election for change in national leadership