Rep. Greg Stanton discusses immigration reform, rising tuition during Tempe campus town hall

The freshman representative answered student questions on DACA, rising tuition costs and universal healthcare

Rep. Greg Stanton promised to support DACA recipients and efforts to address the rising cost tuition during a town hall on Tuesday at ASU's Tempe campus.

Stanton (D-Phoenix) was invited by the state chapter of youth voting advocacy group NextGen America to speak to youth voters who "went to the polls in November" to elect him. 

"Now we’re working to hold him accountable on his campaign promises," said Jalakoi Solomon, state director for NextGen Arizona. "We see this town hall as the beginning of a productive relationship between the congressman and his young constituents."

The event, held at Old Main on ASU's Tempe campus, served as an opportunity for the freshman representative, who previously served as mayor of Phoenix, to introduce himself to ASU students. 

The town hall is one of the first public dialogues Stanton has had with students since he was elected in November as the representative for Arizona's ninth congressional district, which covers parts of Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler. 

"I want to have an ongoing dialogue, I want to listen with an open heart and an open mind to allow me to be a better representative," Stanton said in an interview after the event. "That’s what today was really a continuation of." 

With NextGen’s goal of "holding politicians accountable," the group gave students the opportunity to submit questions for the town hall, which ranged in subject from sustainability to the affordability of college. 

One question challenged Stanton on why he did not support the bill H.R. 1384, the "Medicare for All Act." While he said he supports the Affordable Care Act and lowering drug costs, he said that Medicare for all may not be the right path to universal healthcare and that such a bill would not get through Congress, which is split with Republicans in control of the Senate.

Stanton also fielded a question about what he can do for students at the University who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as "Dreamers."

He said he will encourage state lawmakers to allow DACA recipients to receive in-state tuition and that he will work to pass a "clean" DREAM Act that is not attached to policies that favor GOP immigration reform.

Read more: Arizona Democratic lawmakers join House Democrats in co-sponsoring 'new DREAM Act'

Stanton said that DACA recipients provide an advantage to Arizona’s economy and that efforts to deny them opportunities in Arizona is "self-defeating" on the part of Arizona’s lawmakers. 

On the rising cost of tuition, Stanton said that efforts to increase federal Pell grant funding and support for community colleges can help students who struggle to afford college. 

He also criticized the Arizona state legislature’s lack of education funding, saying that ASU "has to be innovative" because of the lack of funding the University receives. 

Read more: Students respond to tuition proposal, call on state legislature to increase funding

Outside discussion with students, Stanton spent the beginning of the event telling the audience about his personal and political background.

Stanton told students about his upbringing in Phoenix, his time in college and his career in politics, encouraging students to pursue careers in politics or public policy regardless of their socioeconomic background. 

He often referred to his time as mayor as he spoke about transportation and infrastructure initiatives, though he now works at the federal level and has little control over local initiatives. 

Stanton said that young voters are "an increasingly important part of the electorate," so it’s important to listen to the priorities that young voters think he should have in Congress. 

"Sometimes it can be challenging conversations," he said. "That’s the way it’s supposed to be."

Nusrat Nijum, a sophomore studying political science at ASU, said that she came to the event because she wants to be involved in politics. Nijum, who said she votes in Stanton’s congressional district, said it’s valuable to have elected officials speak on college campuses. 

"I think it’s very important,” she said. “I think it benefits us because we see their positions, and they can see our positions."


Reach the reporter at bpietsch@asu.edu and follow @bryan_pietsch on Twitter. 

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