Reps. Casten, Underwood field questions during McHenry County town hall

Reps. Casten, Underwood field residents' questions in Crystal Lake

We’re in Washington fighting for you.

That was the message of 14th Congressional District Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, and 6th Congressional District Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, during a Monday night town hall meeting in Crystal Lake.

The two freshmen legislators addressed immigration and border security, health care and the so-called Green New Deal championed by progressives. The event included a moment of silence for the victims of Friday’s mass shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora.

Dozens of residents packed the auditorium at McHenry County College for the chance to meet and question the lawmakers. Underwood and Casten took similar stances on the issues raised throughout the night.

“Comprehensive immigration reform, that is the key here,” Underwood said when questioned about the delays and confusion many immigrants face when working to become permanent residents or citizens. “There are so many problems in our broken immigration system. Taking them piecemeal does not work. ... I’m committed to comprehensive immigration reform. It’s a priority on the agenda.”

Still, Underwood said the Republican-controlled Senate will continue to act as a “barrier” to reform.

When questioned about the Green New Deal, both Casten and Underwood said it’s a work in progress with important goals.

“We have to act,” Casten said, adding that he wants to make sure policy experts fine-tune such legislation. He called the Green New Deal a “very activist-led agenda” with “really noble goals.”

“We are committed to action,” Underwood said, adding that she looks forward to reading the legislative text when prepared. “We must act. We must.”

When questioned about health care, Underwood, a nurse, said, “Health care is a human right.”

Casten said the current system is too expensive and a “functioning public option” is crucial to achieving universal health care at a lower cost.

Casten decries Trump, talks Aurora

Before the town hall, Casten, a biochemist and entrepreneur, told the Northwest Herald that he’s prepared to stand up to President Donald Trump.

“There is tremendous fear and fright within Congress about what this president is doing – the violations of the Constitution, whether or not he’s fit to serve, which is a big problem. It is truly frightening to say that has become political,” Casten said.

Casten said he believes Trump needs to be investigated by House Democrats.

“I truly hope that we don’t discover anything because I would like to believe that this president is as committed to the Constitution as I am,” he said. “[In] the briefings that I have been in, that I have gotten some access to classified information about – what we know about the Russia investigation is worse than I thought. It’s frightening.”

Casten also said he believes it’s time for frank talk about gun violence. Five people were killed and five officers were injured Friday when a gunman opened fire at an Aurora manufacturing plant.

“It is heartbreaking,” Casten said. “There’s this pressure to say, ‘Don’t politicize the event.’ As I said to the folks out in Aurora today, none of these five folks asked to be martyrs. The least we can do is not forget them.”

Casten said the nation is filled with “too many guns.”

“Politicize it,” he said. “Whenever somebody says don’t politicize it, politicize it. ... If we took 100 million guns off the street tomorrow, we would still have more guns per capita than any other country in the world. We’ve got to talk about it. We can’t duck it and pretend it’s not a real issue.”

Casten said House Democrats are committed to removing loopholes allowing violent individuals access to firearms and aren’t afraid to “do what the voters want.”

“Assault weapons ban, background checks. Everybody wants this stuff to happen, but folks are afraid of going up against the gun lobby,” he said. “If you’re afraid to lead, get out of leadership.”

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