The national issues our country faces have an impact on all American citizens, from congressmen in Washington, D.C. to small-town folks in Nebraska.
To help explain these issues to Sarpy County residents, Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry hosted a town hall meeting at the Gretna American Legion Hall on Saturday morning.
“These national issues affect people on a daily basis,” Terry told the Breeze. “Unless you pay attention, you may not notice.”
While the town hall meeting included a variety of questions, many of them focused on issues such as immigration reform, funding Obamacare and the NSA monitoring American citizens.
When asked on immigration, Terry said there seem to be members of the House of Representatives from both major political parties who seek a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
“I think the pathway to citizenship Republican group is a minority,” he added.
However, Terry said the majority of the Republican party recognizes the immigration system is broken and needs changes. These changes do not include a pathway, he said.
For himself, Terry said he would not be willing to pass any reform unless it ensures border security and a stronger verification system for employers, requiring businesses to run an e-verify to ensure a potential employee is an American citizen or face high fines and other legal punishment.
“I don’t like government mandates, but this is one I’d support,” he said.
Terry said the only way to reduce the amount of illegal immigration, in his opinion, is to have proper security and make sure no businesses hire those who are not citizens.
As for Obamacare, Terry said that even if there was a government shutdown, parts of Obamacare would still run as it was written into law as mandatory spending.
“When you hear about our appropriation bills and spending fights, it’s on the (discretionary spending,)” he said.
While this discretionary spending is only 18 percent of the federal budget, some of it does include funding other parts of Obamacare.
Terry was also asked about NSA monitoring phone records of all American citizens, which was revealed after Edward Snowden — an American computer specialist who worked for the CIA and the NSA — leaked details of several top-secret United States government mass surveillance programs to the press. While Terry said he did not consider Snowden a hero, he did learn something.
“I learned the NSA is collecting information on every U.S. citizen,” he said.
Terry said the NSA had used the Patriotic Act as a way to collect the phone records of citizens, as the government entity claimed it could not trust the phone companies to keep the records.
As a response, he said he and others are working on legal language for section 215 of the Patriot Act.
“We’re going to say telephone companies have to keep the data for 10 years,” he said.
While Terry said he does not approve of monitoring every U.S. citizen, he does believe the government needs that monitoring power to ensure the safety of the country.
“We have to have that balance,” he said.
Terry will be having another town hall meeting in Sarpy County on Aug. 22 at noon in the Sump Library, 222 North Jefferson Street in Papillion. He said he encourages residents to come out and share their concerns and questions, as that is how he hears what his constituents have to say.
“Everything — if you think through — is impacted by what Washington does,” he said.