Democratic congressional candidate Carolyn Long Tuesday accused President Donald Trump of holding immigrant children hostage as a bargaining chip in his effort to secure funding for a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“That is appalling to me, and it should be appalling to every American,” Long said at a campaign town hall in Longview. “You’re taking children away from their parents in order to be in a negotiating position to get what you want so you can claim victory for a wall.”
A town hall event hosted by Long Tuesday evening in Longview featured heavy discussion of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that involves separating immigrant children from their families. “As a mother, it breaks my heart,” Long said. “I have to explain to my 13-year-old daughter why we’re separating children from their parents, and it’s horrific.”
More than 50 people turned out to hear Long speak at the Longview Public Library, and she fielded multiple questions from residents concerned about the administration’s controversial immigration crackdown.
Long is competing with four Democrats and two Republican challengers to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep Jaime Herrera Beutler in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Cowlitz, Lewis, Wahkiakum and Pacific counties.
A retired Longview teacher named Elaine Cockrell said the U.S. Justice Department’s new policy — which involves referring anyone caught illegally entering the country to criminal prosecution — reminded her of Japanese internment camps during World War II.
“It just gets to me,” Cockrell said, referring to scenes of crying children detained in cage-like structures as parents or guardians await trial. “What can be done legally?” she asked. Long, a political science professor at Washington State University Vancouver, said Congress needs to pass legislation to end the separation of immigrant families.
House Republicans are expected to consider a pair of immigration bills this week that would both address family separation, but it is unclear whether the legislation has enough votes to pass. Long also fielded a question from Greg Pang, president and CEO of Community Health Home and Hospice, who said one of his biggest challenges is the limited supply of health care workers following passage of the Affordable Care Act.
The health care law (also known as “Obamacare”) expanded coverage to an additional 40 million people, which has created an extremely tight labor market in the health care sector, Pang said. Long said she would work reduce the cost of higher education so that more people can receive training to enter the health care field.
She also reiterated her support for shoring up the ACA while adding a public option that would allow individuals to buy the same health coverage as federal employees.
Although second-quarter campaign disclosure reports are not due until after the state’s top-two primary on Aug. 7, Long told the crowd she has raised more than $500,000 in individual donations so far. Long said she has also accepted around $10,000 from political action committees run by labor unions. The first-time candidate said about 750 people have also signed on to her campaign as volunteers.