U. S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) hosted a town hall in the Memorial Hall Auditorium at Pratt Institute in Fort Greene yesterday to discuss issues with constituents that affect New Yorkers on a local and national level.
The town hall was the fourth in a series of meetings between Gillibrand and her constituents as part of the senator’s goal to hear from as many New Yorkers as possible.
Issues discussed included jobs, immigration, health care and money in politics. Gillibrand said her objective was to reach out to the people of New York City and understand what they are most concerned about.
“It’s such a great opportunity to hear from my constituents to hear what is important for you,” Gillibrand said.
Gillibrand said the three issues she gets asked about the most when hosting town halls are the cost of health care, what can be done to take money out of politics and creating jobs in their neighborhoods.
For health care, Gillibrand said the solution is obvious, with increasing insurance rate and facing problems of rising costs of medication due to price gouging in the pharmaceutical industry, shifting health care from privatized to a not-for-profit system.
“I do believe the best solution for health care in this country is Medicare for all,” she said.
When asked about the role on money in elections, the senator said there is too much influence from corporations and other large donors in the political sphere. She said removing money from politics would lead to a healthier democracy.
“At the end of the day money in politics is corrosive,” Gillibrand said.
A student of Pratt Institute asked the senator how she would handle the student debt crisis the country is facing. In response, Gillibrand laid out a plan for easing the $30-40,000 average of student debt a New Yorker typically faces.
“I think we have to do something about carrying that much debt,” she said.
The plan included lowering the interest rates on all student loans to 4%, down from the 7-8% rate most federal loans have. That alone would put $12 billion into the economy, she said.
Immigration was the topic that had the most questions at the meeting. Residents of Brooklyn lined up to ask the senator how she would handle the situation of children being separated from their parents after being detained by Immigration and customs enforcement.
She criticized the Trump administration for the way the detentions have been handled. There are currently about 200 children that were separated from their parents in New York City.
“This is one of the biggest failures of the Trump administration,” Gillibrand said.
To tackle the immigration issue, Gillibrand said ICE needs to be reimagined and given a new purpose. She would also like to see immigration policy shift towards granting asylum to immigrants and making sure all of those who are detained are provided with the adequate legal counsel.
“Immigration is our strength, we are a county founded by immigrants, diversity is our strength,” Gillibrand said.