The national discussion on immigration and migrant conditions at the border with Mexico came to Anamosa as Sen. Chuck Grassley addressed the topic during his town hall meeting at the Anamosa library July 2.

A group of protesters holding signs lined the sidewalk in front of the library as Grassley fielded questions from the public in the packed community room as part of his 99 County Tour. One protester made her way into the room and stood silently holding her sign which read “seeking asylum is legal.”

Grassley acknowledged the sign-wielder and addressed the border issue as part of his opening statement.

“We do have a humanitarian crisis. There’s no doubt about it,” he said.  

Grassley said recent legislation was passed to help improve refugee conditions in the camps. The Senate and House of Representatives passed a bill last week, signed July 1 by President Donald Trump, that provides $4.6 billion in additional funding to deal with the border crisis. Approximately $2.9 million is earmarked for the Department of Health and Human Services to assist unaccompanied migrant children. An additional $1.5 billion will go to the Department of Homeland Security earmarked for certain hygiene products and other supplies.

The new funding also accounts for 30 more immigration judges and a “legal orientation program” to teach migrants about their rights. It is also aimed at improving medical care and data tracking.

“When we were appropriating money on Oct. 1 for the next fiscal year, there was no way anybody could anticipate the massive number of people that are coming to the United States across the border,” he said of the additional funds.

Grassley, along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), have ordered an investigation into conditions in the detention centers at the border. Grassley has also sponsored additional legislation for further protections of unaccompanied minors at the border.

That was not the time Grassley addressed the topic of immigration in the forum. When asked about stopping the flow of immigration across the border, he said they were looking at a number of border security measures.  On the status of “dreamers,” or children who came to the country illegally with their parents, Grassley said if and when a comprehensive immigration bill was passed, they would probably be legalized.

The senator also spoke generally on the topic of asylum seekers.

“I think we learned a lesson in 1939 when a ship carrying people from Germany came to our port and we turned them away,” he said.

While President Trump dropped the number of accepted refugees and asylum-seekers from 120,000 to 50,000, he felt the country should try to be a humanitarian nation “within reason.”

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