LANCASTER — With a rapid-fire but controlled cadence throughout, Rep. Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce) engaged several hundred constituents gathered Sunday afternoon at Eastside High School’s auditorium to discuss a multitude of hot topics such as homeless, immigration raids and climate change.
The town hall was Hill’s fourth in a span of six months, according to Kassie King, Hill’s communications director, and for the roughly two-hour Sunday session, she read from a prepared statement as well as freestyled answers asked by constituents and attendees — which included residents of Santa Clarita and Simi Valley.
After the attendees were seated promptly around 3:30 p.m. — filling most of the seats in the spacious auditorium — Hill didn’t waste any time describing the political climate in Washington.
“There’s a ton of partisanship going on in Washington; you all know that,” Hill said. “There’s a lot of gridlock, there’s too much money and too much power in the hands of a very few people who do not reflect all of us. But I would always listen to you and I’ll always be straight with you, and that’s why I’m here today.”
As soon as she finished her intro remarks, Hill instructed the attendees to line up in the aisle and identify themselves, then speak up to two minutes. She took five questions at a time and then addressed each question.
The first question asked about which House of Representatives committees Hill sits on, which she then listed: Oversight and Reform (vice chair), House Armed Services, and Science, Space and Technology.
The next question was on the issue of the Antelope Valley’s homeless population — to which Hill quickly pointed at her policy position and potential solutions.
“The immediate solution that needs to happen really has to focus on how we’re creating that housing stock,” she said. “How we are making sure that we are building affordable housing or that we are dedicating affordable housing. We want to have mixed housing — that’s great — but, we need to have a dedicated amount of units that are specifically for people who cannot afford any kind of market rate housing no matter how much we build.”
To that end, she said she supports “initiatives like low-income housing tax credit, which incentivizes developers to satisfy certain amount of units that are specifically for people who are very low-income or experiencing homelessness.”
Hill then mentioned she co-chairs a “housing task force for new Democratic coalition” that is “in the process of working with a number of stakeholders to help develop some policy solutions that are immediate and bipartisan, but also that will be looking at in the long-term.”
Next, Hill addressed a question about the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency raids on a Mississippi poultry plant. The issue is with employers, not the employees who may be undocumented immigrants, she said.
“I recognize that we have an issue with employers who aren’t following the law and who are hiring people illegally — and I think we need to hold employers accountable,” Hill said, as raucous applause filled an otherwise quiet room. “I’d like to see those ICE resources targeting employers, not the employees and that we get people an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and are not separating families.”
Climate change was the next hot-button subject and Hill took a moment to describe what she heard first-hand while visiting El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the trio of Central American nations whose indigenous residents are migrating north.
“In Guatemala, the most heartbreaking statistic — well, there were many that I heard — was that one in two children under age five are so malnourished that their growth is stunted,” Hill said. “Just imagine that, in terms of our community, if we were faced with something similar what a crisis that would be. What I heard from Border Patrol when I went to McAllen, Texas ... over, and over and over again I heard from Border Patrol agents that it’s so difficult for them to watch.
“Because they know that if it were any of us, we would be doing the exact same thing,” Hill said.
One of the audience members suggested climate change was a root cause of the migration, which Hill acknowledged.
“I appreciate you saying that one of the root causes is climate change,” Hill said, “and that’s why we have to treat it as aggressively as possible.”
As Hill’s town hall wrapped up around 5:15 p.m., DiMaggio Washington, a former aerospace employee who is now a managing partner and sommelier at the two-year-old Thief and Barrel Tasting Room winery in Lancaster, filed out with dozens of others.
“The community got a good pulse on what’s happening,” Washington said. “A lot of the questions were right on target. I’m glad she continues to do these (town halls).”