Residents angered by the treatment of immigrant children in camps on the Mexican border dominated a packed, often-contentious town hall Monday night called by U.S. Rep Thomas Suozzi, D-Huntington.
A few minutes into the meeting as Suozzi reviewed his electoral history, a man shouted out, “Stop filibustering!” When Suozzi asked what issues had brought people to the meeting, many raised their hands for immigration, while others responded to healthcare, climate change or guns. But the biggest cheers and applause came when someone shouted “impeachment.”
When he referred to immigration, Suozzi was interrupted by people who wanted to talk specifically about children, his recent vote on an immigration bill and his role in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, leading him to say, “Let’s take it down a notch and not make this a Trump rally,” which also brought some cheers.
The crowd seemed so like-minded on immigration and against President Trump that at times it felt like a partisan rally. While one person carried a sign calling Suozzi a DINO–Democrat in Name Only–the congressman sparred with some in the audience about the difference between the need to remain ideologically pure on an issue and voting to accomplish something. “Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” he said.
One woman complained politely that the meeting had been “hijacked” by immigration and asked that people behave civilly. But the conversation quickly turned back to immigration and impeachment.
Some people in the audience wore Mylar blankets, similar to what children in the camps have been using. One woman pleaded for Suozzi to uphold American values, saying, “I am heartbroken that this country that I love is breaking human rights laws. We are torturing small children. What will the House do to investigate the crimes of federal workers who are breaking the law, US, international human rights laws?”
Others complained that Suozzi, who has said he hasn’t yet concluded that impeachment is an option, with one woman saying, “How many counts of obstruction does it take for you to be there?” His reply that he was “following Speaker Pelosi’s lead” was met with groans.
When Suozzi explained the need to get things done and responded to a complaint about his work with the Problem Solvers Caucus by saying, “No one can question my credentials as a Democrat,” someone in the back of the crowd shouted out a vulgarity.
Another woman concluded by saying, “Many of us do appreciate how open you’ve been. We need to shine a light on what’s going on (with the immigrant camps) and most people feel it’s inhuman, its wrong. What we have to is beat him (Trump) in 2020.”
Suozzi tangled with Robert Zimmerman, a public relations figure who is rumored to be considering a run against the incumbent, with the two men standing together at one point to debate the specifics of immigration policy.