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Congressman Scott Taylor held a town hall meeting at the York High School Tuesday night, where more than 900 audience members rehashed concerns raised since the election of President Donald Trump.
Moderated by former 13News Now anchor Sandra Parker, the topics of discussion ran the gamut — from the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to sea-level-rise in Virginia, Trump’s election promises, and the state of veterans’ health across the Peninsula.
Taylor, a Republican who represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, introduced himself to the crowd as a blue-collar farm boy, who found success in life after serving as a Navy SEAL.
“I spent years there,” Taylor said of his time in the service. “I went down to South and Central America. I went to Iraq, got injured there, came home.”
He added that after leaving the military, he started his own real estate and international security consulting business.
One speaker brought the crowd to a hush as he addressed the plight of area veterans. Brian Fellini, a former Marine and York County resident, was on the verge of tears while he asked Taylor about his support for local servicemen and women.
“What’re you going to do for our vets?” Fellini asked. “We’re dying here. We’re getting screwed by the V.A. I’ve got guys who are killing themselves because they’re not getting any help. We need help. I waited six weeks just to get an appointment and we’re dying.”
Taylor said his position on the military appropriations sub-committee would put him in a better position to help area veterans. He also said he wants people who need help to contact his offices.
As the night moved on, Taylor got into a rhythm and the crowd grew more emotionally charged and raucous. Taylor told multiple audience members to contact his offices for help. The evening was underscored by significant heckling from the audience.
Many in attendance questioned the congressman about the Affordable Care Act, asking Taylor about his support for the law and, if it were to be replaced, what he would support.
“I won’t support something that doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions,” Taylor said. “I also support being on your parent’s plan until you’re 26. My priority is access.”
One of the night’s final exchanges was between a woman named Dalia, who immigrated from Colombia to the United States at the age of 17 and joined the United States Navy. She asked a question about the separation of undocumented families, like some of her friends who had lived in the United States for 20 years or more. A significant portion of the exchange was in Spanish.
“I’m trying to explain to my friends and my family, that this is not everyone in this country,” Dalia said. “We are a compassionate country. I came to this country based on having everybody and helping everybody. It’s just about compassion. Having women separated from their children after 20 years, I get it, but they’ve been here for 20 years. They have been paying taxes. They have children who were born here.”
Taylor called the rhetoric around the issue overblown before recalling his travels in the military. He added he didn’t want to hurt families, but said he was an advocate of supporting the law and those who respect our laws.
Taylor has previously recalled his past military experience when talking about immigration and travel issues, including his support for Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven majority Muslim countries, according to WYDaily’s sister paper Southside Daily.
“There is no such thing as an illegal person,” several audience members shouted after the exchange.
After the crowds left, filtering out of two sets of double doors into the school’s parking lot, Taylor reflected on the evening. He said regardless of people’s opinion of him, everyone’s voice should be heard.
“There are people who agree with me [and] people who didn’t agree with me, but I think they all have the right to be respected and have a seat at the table,” Taylor said. “And, that’s why we’re here.”