U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar responded to a former Marine’s request for help with Afghan refugees, explained how infrastructure legislation could help her district, and defended herself against accusations that his views are radical in the process. of a public meeting.
Minneapolis resident Sergio Barrera, 31, a veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps from 2008 to 2013, asked for Omar’s support for legislative changes that could help Afghans during a question-and-answer period during the August 31st event at the Recreation Outdoor Center. in the Saint-Louis park.
“I have worked with a lot of Afghans and come from an immigrant community myself, and I have tried to help them in any way I can,” said Barrera, who worked closely with many Afghan interpreters as a linguist.
Barrera pointed out that some Afghans eligible for refugee status did not come to the United States during the evacuation process because their families were not granted permission to come with them due to complications with the application process. .
He also noted that Afghans who are also citizens and residents of the United States may not be eligible for refugee assistance even though they have “pretty much lost everything.”
Barrera asked what the US government is doing to help those left behind and their families.
After thanking Barrera for his service and pointing out the number of people the United States has evacuated in a short period of time, Omar recognized the limitations of the current system for refugees. As an example, she mentioned the complications of paperwork for a voter regarding evacuations he requested for his adult children.
Omar said she was “extremely passionate” about having conversations with President Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress about expanding the number of people eligible for resettlement programs. of the country, as for asylum seekers. It also supports raising the cap on the number of refugees allowed in the United States.
She called for assurances from the Biden administration that the country will continue to seek to help people leave Afghanistan after the promising withdrawal.
“We will hold them accountable for this,” Omar said.
Barrera said after the town hall meeting that many veterans he knows have sought to help Afghans they know escape.
“The Afghan soldiers I worked with and spent a lot of time with and became friends with, I don’t know what happened to them in the long run,” said Barrera, who said he maintained contact with some performers over the years. via social networks. “I don’t even know where they are today – if they’re safe, if they’re still alive or if their lives are in danger.
Barrera later added in an email, “I was pleased with Rep. Omar’s statements because I believed from her responses that she cared a lot about these issues and was working to help.”
He said he appreciated her explanation of the obstacles facing refugees and her commitment to ensuring that the Biden administration keeps its word to continue helping those who remain in Afghanistan.
Omar also addressed the situation during remarks at the start of the town hall meeting.
“It’s really frustrating to see the immense human tragedy in Afghanistan,” said Omar. “At this critical time, we must make the most of our history and open our arms to those seeking the opportunities that many of us in this country have had.”
Omar also addressed funding legislation in Congress. She said she was seeking more than $ 14 million in federal funding for projects that she said “invest in communities that have been hit hardest by both the pandemic and the social unrest during the last year”.
The projects concern unemployment, food and housing insecurity and access to health care, Omar said.
Separately, she said she helped advance legislation with $ 32.5 million for transportation projects in the 5th Congressional District, which includes Minneapolis and neighboring suburbs. The legislation would include $ 5 million for the Metro F Line, a rapid transit bus system that would follow the Central Avenue corridor from downtown Minneapolis to the Northtown Mall in Blaine; $ 4.5 million for the Metro E Line, a rapid transit line between the University of Minnesota and the Southdale Mall in Edina; and more than $ 20 million for the Blue Line extension that would extend an existing light rail line that ends in downtown Minneapolis northwest to Brooklyn Park.
“This legislation invests in underserved communities and corrects long-standing disparities,” Omar said of the INVEST in America Act, a transportation bill that was approved by the House of Representatives in July.
The US Senate passed a version of the bill in August.
Omar said she supported a bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as a larger and more ambitious partisan bill. She said she would push for the two “together to make sure we don’t prioritize one over the other.”
She spoke passionately when asked about her latest re-election campaign and her progressive politics.
“The military industrial complex is not the only one that is somehow manipulating the American public and making us invest in things that are not really beneficial to us,” Omar said. “In many ways the media apparatus writes a narrative that when you talk about policies like Medicare for All, when you talk about policies like student debt cancellation, when you talk about policies of end homelessness, when you were talking about policies centered on humanity, dignity and security – and not just in foreign policy but in public safety policies here at the national level – they call you radical. Law? They say everything you fight for is controversial.
She argued that the media do not treat supporters of military intervention and “corporate gifts” the same.
“They are not saying this person has a controversial point of view,” Omar said. “They don’t demonize them. They celebrate them. They say … ‘This is the mainstream’, ‘This is someone who listens to everyone in their constituency’, when in reality every policy that I defend has 70%, 80%, 90 % approval from the US constituency.
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