Quick Hit Ashlee Rezin Wednesday August 21st, 2013, 4:08pm

Roskam Gets Targeted By Activists For 'Standing In The Way' Of Immigration, Health Care Reform (VIDEO)

While U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R, IL-6) attended a town hall meeting in Naperville on Wednesday, a group of protesters, upset with the congressman’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and several immigration reform proposals, held a demonstration outside.

Roskam, the protesters allege, has not offered any concrete solutions to fix the nation’s broken immigration and health care systems, but instead has only blocked solutions based on partisanship.

“Democracy can’t survive on just standing in the way,” said John Gaudette, organizing director for Citizen Action Illinois, who helped organize the protest. “If he’s taking the opposing stance, he needs to tell us what works and come up with an alternative plan.”

The town hall meeting, held at Cress Creek Country Club at 1215 Royal St. George Dr., in Naperville, was hosted by the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. The entry fee for non-chamber members was $35. Roughly two-dozen protesters, including Gaudette, stood at the prestigious country club’s entrance holding signs that urged the congressman and his backers to support comprehensive immigration and health care reform.  

Gaudette held a sign that read, “Hands off my Obamacare.”

“Representative Roskam is leading the fight to kill a law that seems to be working,” he said. “Is he really speaking for the 93,000 people who can’t wait for the exchange to open? Or is he worried about his Wall Street friends that need the revenues from our premiums to increase their bottom lines?”

The ACA, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, attempts to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance by installing insurance mandates, subsidies and health insurance marketplaces, which are set to launch on October 1, in all 50 states.

The number of uninsured Americans is estimated to drop by 32 million under the ACA, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Key components of the measure include Medicaid expansion in states that have approved it; the elimination of health insurance exclusion based on pre-existing conditions; and the ban of annual and lifetime coverage caps, meaning insurance companies cannot impose a dollar limit on the amount of coverage an individual may receive.

Gaudette said the ACA is “not too conservative and not too liberal” and pointed out that, according to a Democratic Staff Report from the U.S. House of Representatives, 243,000 individuals in Roskam’s district will now have health insurance that covers preventative services without any co-pay, coinsurance or deductible.

But Roskam, who serves as the U.S. House chief deputy whip, is a staunch opponent of the ACA and has repeatedly voted to repeal the law.

In the town hall meeting, which focused on tax reform and drew attendance from State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), Roskam called the ACA “a disaster.”

“It’s not going to lower $2,500 per family, you’re not going to be able to keep your doctor, it’s having an adverse impact on job growth,” he said, referring to the mandate that penalizes employers with 50 or more workers that do not offer health insurance to their full-time employees.

When Ahlam Jbara, deputy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), asked Roskam about his position on comprehensive immigration reform during the meeting, he called legislation that is making its way through Congress “Obamacare 2.0.”

Roskam said he supported strengthening the country’s borders and implementing a “high-tech VISA program.”

Erendira Rendon, an organizer for ICIRR who protested outside of the event, said Roskam should be less concerned with securing the borders, and more concerned with serving Illinois constituents, 75 percent of which support a streamlined path to citizenship for the nation’s approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Rendon, who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of four, can stay lawfully in the country temporarily under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants a two-year deferral of deportation for undocumented immigrants that came to the states at a young age.

“I’m as American as anybody else and I deserve to be on a pathway to citizenship,” she said, adding that her older brother and both of her parents are also undocumented and were not granted DACA.

“We don’t really know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the day after. We could be deported any time, we can’t get the best jobs, or a better job, and my dad couldn’t see his dying father, who had hadn’t visited for 16 years,” Rendon added.

In a statement in June, Roskam said that before immigration reform is implemented, Congress should first “discourage future waves of illegal immigration.” That same month, he supported an amendment to the House's 2014 Department of Homeland Security spending bill that would defund DACA, and in 2010 he voted against the DREAM Act, which would have provided conditional permanent residency to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors.

“He needs to stop blocking immigration reform,” said Rendon.

The bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act Of 2013, or S. 744, passed in the Senate in June and now faces an uncertain future in the GOP-led House.

Meanwhile, a House-drafted immigration reform bill has yet to surface in the lower chamber, as lawmakers continue to grapple over conditions for granting a pathway to citizenship, such as border security and health care.

“We need an immigration system that is focused in on the needs of the United States and how we create a growth agenda, and I think the Senate immigration bill really falls miserably short of that,” said Roskam at Wednesday’s town hall meeting.

Here’s more from Roskam on what he thinks is the best way to address immigration reform:

Judy Mascolino, a resident of Roskam’s district for more than 20 years and participant in Wednesday’s protest, said the congressman is “not representing the people’s desires or needs.”

“Everything seems to be geared toward big business, as we can see right here, you have to pay to get into a meeting just to talk to him,” she said. “There’s never any opportunity for the little people to talk to him and that’s not the way to run a district.”

Mascolino accused Roskam of “wasting time” blocking partisan reform efforts, and criticized him, and the Republican Party, for not producing any other possibilities for health care reform.

“They spend all of their time trying to repeal it, but we’re the only developed country that has a health care system run on a for-profit basis, and they haven’t come up with anything on their own,” she said.


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