A standing-room-only crowd of about 100 people at a town hall forum hosted by House GOP conference vice chair Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) Wednesday overwhelmingly voiced their opposition to amnesty, or any pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants in America, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
As the Rev. Jason Schoff of Mission Adelante asked Jenkins (pictured) to support amnesty in immigration reform legislation passed by the House, the majority of crowd members shouted him down. “We’ve got to secure the borders, but we’ve also got to make sure that somehow we’re taking care of those that are humans and immigrants here and try to give them a way to not fear deportation,” Schoff said. “A lot of our businesses need them.”
The local paper reports that “grumbling” against Schoff’s pro-amnesty comments “turned to shouts” as he spoke.
“They’re illegal,” one person shouted.
“They’re [sic] broke the law when they crossed the border,” another yelled.
“Sit down,” another said to Schoff.
It was so heated that Jenkins, a member of House GOP leadership, apparently joked to try to “defuse the situation.”
“Now, he’s not running for Congress,” she said. “Are you?”
Jenkins said that the House is working on an alternative to the Senate bill. Even so, many of Jenkins’ constituents, outside of Schoff, do not seem to want any pathway to citizenship.
Renee Slinkard, a Jenkins constituent who resides in Parker, KS, called the Senate’s bill “horrible” and argued that America’s immigration system is not broken; she suggested instead that the country needs to enforce immigration laws already on the books. “Our immigration system is not broke,” Slinkard said. “Our immigration system is fine. What is broken is the enforcement of our immigration system.””
“Close the borders, and secure them,” Slinkard added as an offering of her own solution.
Schoff told the local reporter after the forum event that he is “a little frustrated by the lack of a sense of compassion,” and that deporting people here illegally is “costly and lacking a lot of mercy.”
Jenkins cited groups that represent various special interests like the agriculture and tech community, saying they say the U.S. needs to improve America’s legal immigration system. “We’ve got ag groups that are advocating for something to be done, and I have farmers and ranchers that need something to be done, but I think they want it to be done in a legal fashion,” she said.
(Editor’s note: This piece has been amended to remove details on the House’s immigration bill that were removed by the Topeka Capital-Journal after publication of this story.)