At testy town hall, Perry and voters debate Trump, immigration and guns
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry argued with vocal attendees at his Tuesday town hall over immigration, health care and more as roughly 30 empty seats remained in the reportedly sold-out venue.
The Carroll Township Republican received some support and plenty of opposition at his first town hall in more than two years at Hummelstown Fire Department in Dauphin County.
More than 30 protesters demonstrated outside the venue, attacking Perry for booking a small venue that was sold out in minutes and requiring government-issued identification proving attendees resided in the 10th District.
"His security protocols are ridiculous," said Marta Peck, co-founded of Indivisible York. "Scott Perry has created this constituency. We're not violent. We're exercising our First Amendment free speech rights. This really says to me he's scared of hearing voices that disagree with his positions."
As Perry began making remarks at 6 p.m., the room was about half full. It wasn't until wait-listed demonstrators angrily confronted staffers about being barred from the half-empty room that they were allowed in, filling up roughly 30 more seats.
But despite the accusations of silencing opposition, Perry clashed with many audience members. As they demanded answers and pushed back, they were cut off by the moderator, David Roeting.
The most contentious exchanges followed questions about immigration, gun control and references to racist rhetoric coming from President Donald Trump.
The Republican was asked about the treatment of migrants detained at the southern border who have faced what many say are unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
“I don’t support the status quo," Perry said. "They’re being cared for the best we can under the circumstances. It was never set up for 5,000 people a day coming between the ports of entry. Our system was set up for people to come through the ports of entry.”
While discussing the issue, Perry also falsely stated 30% of child migrants are being trafficked, citing a May article in the Daily Mail, which cited DNA testing that revealed 30% of guardians weren't biologically related to the children in their custody.
Perry on multiple occasions touted a pocket-sized U.S. Constitution, including when he steered a gun control question about taking guns from domestic abusers into a discussion about mental health.
Multiple audience members called for Perry to condemn recent tweets made by Trump.
Earlier this month, Trump told four freshman congresswomen of color — all of whom are U.S. citizens, three of whom were born in the United States — to "go back" to where they came from.
In a statement from Perry, he refused to condemn the rhetoric and instead wrote that he's "disappointed to find that many in the media are just awakening to the anti-American and anti-Semitic comments uttered consistently by some socialist leaders."
More recently, targeting Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Trump called Baltimore a "rodent and rat-infested mess."
"I'm not condemning anyone," Perry told rowdy audience members. "I got my vote, and you have your vote. There are things I've said are distasteful on both sides. You all have your opinions. You don't need me to tell you what to think about all of this stuff."
Audience members continued to press Perry and asked about canceling student debt, to which he responded, "nobody’s ever done that for me, so that isn’t fair.”
Instead, he cited legislation he introduced last week that would give colleges the option to co-sign student loans with borrowers to help drive down costs and encourage universities to keep tuition in check.
The Republican also dismissed the "Medicare For All" proposal, asserting it would bankrupt the Medicare system and that it "violates the promise that we made to the people that are forced to pay for it under the virtue of taxes.”
At roughly 7:30 p.m., a Perry staffer opened up questions to members of the media because there was extra time, he said.
But after two questions, the session was cut off because staffers had to "clear the room" because of time constraints, said Perry spokeswoman Brandy Brown.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD