Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, and his Democratic opponent in the 14th Congressional District race, Lauren Underwood of Naperville, faced off in a public forum Tuesday evening in Yorkville that focused on immigration, health care and other key issues.
During the forum, the pair were asked about their views on immigration reform and whether the nation's immigration system was broken. While both acknowledged that the system needed fixing, they disagreed on what could be done.
Hultgren said he is in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program and has voted in favor of funding for the program in the past. He said he has met with DACA recipients regularly.
"I'm so impressed with these young people," he said. "This is the only country they've ever known, this is the only language they know. This is home and they want to be part of America."
Hultgren said he wants to "clean up the bureaucracy" for immigrants who want to come to the U.S. and work.
"It's ridiculous to me that it takes five, six, seven, eight years for someone to go through the process," he said. "We ought to have a process in place that works."
Underwood highlighted the rhetoric that has come from President Donald Trump regarding immigrants over the past two years of his presidency.
"We've had an opportunity in the last two years to make really major steps forward, but instead we have an administration, the Trump Administration, who has led with anti-immigrant, hateful and divisive rhetoric that I think is incredibly inappropriate, and it doesn't reflect the core values of the American people and certainly not the 14th District," she said.
Underwood said Trump "undid a longstanding bipartisan policy [regarding DACA] and turned to Congress for a permanent solution."
"Congressman Hultgren has had numerous opportunities to support a solution for the Dreamers and there has not been one in the last year and a half that has moved forward in Congress," she said. "That, to me, is a failure. We should not go into the 116th Congress with this item outstanding. Over the summer we had images every day of kids in cages at the border and this Congress would not even call a hearing."
The two candidates were also asked about the solution to the rising cost of health insurance and health care, particularly for those who are self-employed such as farmers. They were also asked who pays for their health insurance.
Underwood said she pays her own premium every month and that she has insurance through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, marketplace. She acknowledged that it is expensive.
"There are not a lot of choices on that marketplace, and I think we need to create some real changes to that program to make it more affordable for middle class families," she said.
Underwood said when Obamacare was originally set up, there was a pool of money that was supposed to be available for risk adjustment programs to incentivize insurance companies to offer plans in the marketplace. The pool of money was available for the first year, she said, but has "been effectively zeroed out."
Underwood said the federal government must start negotiating drug prices.
"If the federal government can help incentivize lower-cost drugs in the commercial market, even for those who are self-insured, then that would be a tremendous cost savings for consumers and taxpayers," she said.
Hultgren said he and his family pay for their own health care and they "do not have any coverage or any benefit from the federal government for our health care."
Hultgren said he and his family were "forced to be on the D.C. exchange" because his work address was in Washington, D.C. He said it was "costly and incredibly confusing." He said they have since purchased private health insurance.
"I fundamentally disagree with the need for big government to solve problems for our health care," he said. "What we need to do is build up marketplaces where people have real options."