In his first town hall meeting since narrowly defeating Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones in November, Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, on Saturday answered questions from constituents concerned about new national policies relating to immigration, health care and other topics.
Despite a political division in Bera’s 7th Congressional District – 52 percent of voters supported Hillary Clinton for president and 41 percent went for Donald Trump – most of those who attended the meeting at Elk Grove’s City Hall said they came to show their opposition to executive orders signed by President Trump during his first week in the White House.
Approximately 100 people filled the meeting room, with many holding signs with messages such as “Immigrants deserve better” and “#No Ban #No Wall” and “Support #Sanctuary Cities.” Those who could not fit inside the room stood in the lobby, watching the meeting on TV screens.
Among the concerns brought at the town hall included the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, Trump’s threat of withholding federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities, and the president’s order, made Friday, to suspend entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, ban Syrian refugees indefinitely, and temporarily deny citizens of six other predominantly Muslim countries entry into the United States.
Karan Hatzenbeler, a Rancho Cordova resident, said repealing Obamacare potentially could leave her without insurance. “I took a job that had no health coverage whatsoever,” she explained. “Many of us came out to talk about the issues that affect us all.”
Bill Randolph, a member of the Sacramento County Democratic Veterans Club who described himself as a veteran who served in the Army for 25 years, said he attended the meeting to inform local veterans and military families of the potential dangers of Trump’s recent executive orders.
He said he opposed the federal hiring freeze, a move he said would diminish services and keep positions unfilled at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Randolph also denounced Trump for his support of torture methods such as waterboarding.
“He’s telling our neighboring countries, our allies, that torture works,” Randolph said. “Basically his entire foreign policy is putting all of our military at risk.”
Bera, who is the son of Indian immigrants, reassured the crowd, saying he would work with other members of Congress to protect the rights of people from all backgrounds. “I believe our community and our state isn’t ready to compromise on our values,” he said. “We are going to have to push back.”
Elk Grove resident Jaclyn Moreno said she was glad to hear what Bera had to say, but questioned his commitment because of some of his previous votes. A member of a newly formed group called The Resistance, Moreno said she was there to “hold Ami Bera responsible and keep him progressive as we move toward this hateful new administration.”
Amar Shergill, an attorney and board member of the Democratic Party of California, echoed Moreno’s concerns. He pointed to Bera’s support of the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act, legislation that denied certain federal funds to sanctuary cities.
“Events like these will continue to put pressure on him to vote consistently with the ideals he stays he stands for,” Shergill said.