Warren Talks About Values and Puerto Rico at South End Town Hall

Sen. Elizabeth Warren held a town hall at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology—her 31st one—on July 28. From healthcare to the opioid crisis to student loan debt, Warren gave an impassioned talk to the crowd about issues that matter to her.

“It was exactly one year ago today that we saved healthcare for millions of Americans,” she began. She said it happened because of people who spoke out. “You are the reason that millions of Americans still have healthcare in America,” she said.

She accused Republicans of being “fine with rolling back healthcare for millions of Americans,” and said that two out of every three seniors in nursing homes rely on Medicaid. She said she believes that as a “great American family,” everybody can help each other out.

Warren said that the opioid epidemic is “a crisis the Trump administration says is costing us a half a trillion dollars a year.” She doesn’t see why $10 billion cannot be spent to get people the help they need. “That makes no sense at all,” she said.

Audience members asked a variety of questions, ranging from human rights at the border and in the Middle East to prisons for profit to Puerto Rico.

An audience member asked the Senator what her thoughts were on prisons for profit. She said that she is opposed to private prisons and strongly supports criminal justice reform—“not just a piece,” she said, but “needs to be front to back.”

She said that public defenders are “under-resourced and overworked.”

“Once you get caught up in the system, your opportunities have been extinguished,” Warren said. “This is fundamentally wrong.”

Warren then spoke about what she saw on her recent trip to the border. She said she saw people in cages that were 10-feet wide by thirty feet deep, “packed with people.”

She said she saw cages upon cages full of men, women, and young boys and girls with no parents inside with them, and a guard tower in the middle to watch over them.

Warren said she talked to mothers who were fleeing gangs in Central America, and said that if mothers and children are in the same warehouse but in separate cages, the United States government doesn’t recognize this as separation.

“ICE needs to be reorganized from top to bottom” and “side to side,” Warren said. “This is not, for me, political.” She said that values should be held onto no matter what.

An audience member raised a question about statehood for Puerto Rico, to which Warren responded that that is something the people of Puerto Rico need to work out. She said she would support the territory in whatever decision it comes to.

She said that even prior to Hurricane Maria, she was concerned about Puerto Rico’s economy and debt, which totals $73 billion.

Warren said that if Puerto Rico were a city in America, it could declare bankruptcy, and if it were a country, it would be able to default on its own debt. But because of its status as a territory, Warren said that it has no legal method of addressing the debt and once the hurricane hit, it “became impossible” for Puerto Rico to deal with the debt.

Sen.Warren said she was doing two things to assist Puerto Rico. She has created a bill with Bernie Sanders and others that would provide money to rebuild infrastructure in Puerto Rico, as well as another bill that would give Puerto Rico an option to default on its debt and wipe it out.

Warren closed out the Town Hall by saying that “we can’t be a party that stays focused on every  four years; we need people to be in this fight right now.”

Warren said that as the daughter of a father who worked in maintenance and a mother who worked at Sears, “I’m in this fight because for me, it’s personal,” she said. “America invested in kids like me.”

She told the crowd, “It is an honor to fight alongside you in this.”

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