NORWALK, Conn. — A huge crowd cheered on U.S. Rep. Jim Himes on Tuesday evening as over 1,100 people filled every seat at Norwalk Concert Hall — and more people stood outside — as the congressman held his first town hall meeting with voters since Donald Trump was inaugurated.
To frequent applause and cheers from the crowd, Himes (D-4th District) spoke on and answered questions on a range of issues he disagrees with, including Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and Trump's executive order on immigration.
He first reassured the large crowd of constituents that he will continue to raise his voice on the issues. “I will be particularly aggressive in standing up against those things I think are inconsistent with our American values,” Himes said.
He also addressed Trump’s recent attack on the media. “I will be particularly vocal on statements that try to pit the media as an enemy. The media holds us accountable and is a key part of our democracy as is the judiciary of the United States,” said Himes, who represents 17 towns and cities in the 4th Congressional District.
Dozens of people lined up on both sides of the hall to ask Himes questions, including one on the Affordable Care Act.
"I voted for and have defended the Affordable Care Act for eight years now," he said. "All along, I've said it did do some really good things, but it’s not perfect.
"There were problems with it — with some companies dropping out of exchanges, and problems in certain markets and with the legislation, but it covered 20 million Americans [with medical insurance] for the first time ever," Himes said to resounding applause from the crowd.
"In the old world, if you had a condition like breast cancer or leukemia, there came a moment when your insurance company said, 'Sorry we are done with you now.'
"And for those who are diagnosed with pre-existing conditions, we do not want to go back to a world where insurance companies say, 'Sorry you have Type 1 diabetes, we can’t cover you.'"
In response to a question regarding Trump’s executive order to ban travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations, Himes said that this action “does not make us more safe, it makes us less safe. If you look at where the [terror] attacks have come from, it’s not the refugees that are the problem," he said.
For example, Himes said, "The terrible attacks that occurred in Europe were undertaken largely by European citizens."
On the issue of building a wall along the Mexican border, Himes said, “More than half of the people who are in this country on an undocumented basis don’t cross the border illegally. They overstay a visa.”
He said that to solve the problem of undocumented immigrants in the United States, "you get to the source of the problem."
Himes said people come to the U.S. illegally because they can make ten times what they can make in Guatemala or Mexico or where ever they came from.
Cities such as Norwalk and Stamford are home to immigrants both documented and undocumented, Himes said. "And while there are some criminals, most of these people are working really hard," he said. Trump has also stepped up efforts to deport some undocumented immigrants.
“These people are subject to crimes at a higher rate than we are. They get raped, they get robbed, they are victims of violence and we can’t have a situation where somebody is raped and they won’t go to the police because they think the police will deport them," Himes said.
"That should offend the human in us," he said, to loud cheers and applause from the crowd.
Himes will also hold the following town meetings:
- Bridgeport City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22
- UConn Stamford GenRe Auditorium, 1 University Place, Stamford, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4