Democrats meet with millennials in Elgin on college costs, ‘Dreamers’
Democratic congressmen Raja Krishnamoorthi and Eric Swalwell discussed the uncertain future of “Dreamers,” rising college costs and student loan debt, and getting young people to vote during a town hall discussion Monday at Elgin Community College.
Krishnamoorthi, who represents Illinois’ 8th District, and Swalwell, representing California’s 15th District, are part of the Future Forum listening tour. Since 2015, forum members have visited nearly 50 cities to meet with millennials about their concerns.
They spoke about their own working-class beginnings — being on food stamps and struggling to afford college tuition — and the challenges facing today’s generation, including rising college costs and the ability to earn a decent wage.
It’s too expensive to go to college, said Swalwell, 37, adding he was the first in his family to attend college and is still paying off his student loans.
He said too many Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck and are one $500 emergency away from being broke.
The duo addressed the ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last September. President Donald Trump gave Congress a March 5 deadline to pass legislation protecting nearly 700,000 “Dreamers” — those with DACA status.
“Is it really true? Is it over?” asked ECC student Edgar Alba, 20, of Carpentersville, referring to the president’s weekend Twitter comment that “DACA is dead.”
“It’s upsetting to me and many students,” said Alba, who has many friends who are affected. “I have a responsibility to advocate for those who don’t have a voice.”
Krishnamoorthi, 44, of Schaumburg, and Swalwell spoke of the importance of immigrants to America’s economy and the value “Dreamers” provide.
“These people are some of the hardest working people you will ever meet,” Krishnamoorthi said. “By not doing anything, the leadership is turning its back on them. They are living in limbo.”
Swalwell said Congress needs to force the president’s hand by putting DACA legislation “on his desk as soon as possible” for a vote.
Krishnamoorthi also talked about his proposed No Disrupting Accountability (NDA) Act to prevent White House staff from being bound by nondisclosure agreements.
“If they see something, they should be able to say something,” he said.
Both men called for reducing corporate and outside influence on elections and making college tuition more affordable, even free, through increased funding for state and federal grants.
“I could not have probably gone to college without grants and loans,” Krishnamoorthi said. “When you don’t invest in MAP (Monetary Award Program) grants, you are not investing in the future.” Federal Pell grants also need to keep pace with inflation and skyrocketing college costs, he added.
The duo called for more young people to get involved in politics and vote in November’s midterm elections.
With recent nationwide marches against school shootings, students have made their voices heard, Swalwell said.
“There is no limit to what your generation can do,” he said. “Hold people to account this November at the ballot box. Just participate. Your generation has power.”
Author: Madhu Krishnamurthy