U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice convened a town hall meeting on Jan. 19 at the Roosevelt Public Library that addressed housing issues on Long Island, as well as immigration, the 2020 census and college debt. Those concerns, she said, won’t be resolved until President Trump is no longer in office.
Freeporters were among roughly 75 people from Rice’s 4th Congressional District who came prepared with questions. Also attending were some Freeport community leaders, including Douglas Mayers, president of the Freeport-Roosevelt Branch No. 2147 of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Freeporter Dewey Smalls, vice president of the Long Island chapter of National Action Network, a civil rights nonprofit, raised his concern about law enforcement’s treatment of people of color in the village. In particular, Smalls focused on the recent arrest of Freeporter Akbar Rogers, who was tackled and then, as seen in video images, kicked and punched by village police while on the ground. The Nassau County district attorney’s office is investigating.
“I’m just concerned with the culture of law enforcement,” Smalls said. “When no one is looking, they feel that they can do this, and it bothers me.”
“I am aware of the Freeport issue,” Rice told him. “We called the D.A.’s office to make sure they were looking at it. But I promise you that when an issue like that comes up, I do get involved, because it’s incredibly important that people feel that the law applies to everyone.”
Regarding Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Rice said nothing could be done to change these immigration policies until Trump leaves the White House. She also said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not bring any immigration reform bill to the floor of the Senate, even if senators on both sides supported it.
“My goal is that once we get past an administration that peddles in hate, bias and discrimination,” Rice said, “we will be able to get some kind of comprehensive immigration reform.”
Rice also encouraged residents to take part in the 2020 census, and urged undocumented residents to do so too, noting that the participation of all will provide the district with much-needed funding.
“We have a big immigrant community here,” she said. “We have to get the word out that no matter what your status is, you have to fill out that paperwork.”
A 4th C.D. resident, who has been a teacher for the past eight years said he was frustrated that he was unable to afford a home on Long Island because housing is too expensive.
“I’m working with [the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development] to see how we can address the issue,” Rice said. “There is no way for you to get ahead if you can’t put a roof over your head.”
Another resident said he was frustration by student loan debt and his inability to afford to live on Long Island while paying back his loans. Rice said that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s proposed policies have made the situation worse.
“The student loan issue won’t be resolved under this administration,” she said. “Betsy DeVos does not care about people who have loans that they can’t pay back, and has instituted a rule making it hard for people who have been ripped off by for-profit colleges to get their loans discharged.”
According to Rice, by hosting this and other meetings, she wants to work closely with South Shore communities to ensure that pressing issues are addressed. She added that the Roosevelt meeting would be the first of many.