Blumenthal promises challenges of Trump policies at town hall gathering

New London — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal visited Connecticut College on Tuesday to field questions that followed a similar theme: What is he doing to combat President Donald Trump’s policies?

Blumenthal held his fifth town hall meeting on the campus of Conn and entered the auditorium at College Center at Crozier-Williams to a standing ovation from the crowd of about 200 people.

“At a time when things in Washington are often daunting and discouraging, the energy and passion that I have drawn from going around the state… has given me energy and optimism about the future,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal fielded questions on issues ranging from immigration and Russian interference in the presidential election to the future of the Affordable Care Act and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Drawing some laughs from the crowd, Blumenthal said, “We face a host of challenges as a result of an administration that seems often only distantly tethered to reality.”

Mary Levine of New Fairfield, a volunteer organizer with Moveon.org, handed out petitions that call for town leaders to declare their cities and towns places of sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

Levine wanted to know how Blumenthal would combat the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and the proliferation of detention centers to house undocumented immigrants.

“This is for me really personal,” Blumenthal said.

At the age of 17, Blumenthal said his father fled Germany in 1935 to escape persecution. He arrived in the U.S. speaking no English.

“This country gave him a chance to succeed. Nobody loved the United States of America more than my dad. When the Trump executive orders came down, I thought how sad and ashamed my father would be as an American.”

Blumenthal said the U.S. economy depends on immigrants and called for “comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship,” for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. He said there should also be some security for the children of immigrants living in the country, the so-called Dreamers.

“I’m hoping the administration will come to its senses on this point,” Blumenthal said. “It’s spring and hope springs eternal.”

On the issue of Russian interference in the presidential election, Blumenthal said he has called for a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump administration links to Russia and plans to vote against Trump’s pick for deputy attorney general if he does not secure a commitment to bring one in.

Jamie Whitman, a member of the local organization Rise Up Mystic, said she worried about the apparent conservative pipeline of judges into to the U.S. court system from organizations such as the Federalist Society.

“That concerns me tremendously. If you own the courts, you own the law,” she said. “What can you possibly do about that? If that’s right, we’re in big trouble.”

Blumenthal called it a “profoundly important question” and said he voted against the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch because he evaded questions on whether he would adhere to longstanding precedents such as Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of Education. He said there needed to be a more concerted effort to appoint judges in the “mainstream that follow the law.”

Blumenthal said in an era of unprecedented conflicts of interest, the free press and independent judiciary “will be our heroes.”

g.smith@theday.com

 

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