AOC discusses debt limit, immigration in NYC and funding local projects at town hall in Corona

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking at Corona town hall.
Photo by Corey Torpie

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez held a town hall Friday, May 26, in Corona to discuss the debt limit, immigration and funding for local projects, among other topics.

Photo by Corey Torpie

AOC described the debt ceiling as being a very serious issue at the moment. She said it isn’t normal to see a fight over the debt limit between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden.

“The debt limit is about paying for the programs that have already been voted on and authorized,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “[The Republicans in the House] have run up a bill and now they’re trying to not pay that bill in order to try to secure cuts to our essential services and other really critical programs. This is not a normal thing.”

AOC also warned about the consequences of not raising the debt limit. Those reliant upon programs like Medicare, social security checks, SNAP and other federally funded programs may be impacted the most. Additional federal programs and services like air traffic control or critical infrastructure could also be disrupted, according to AOC.

“The debt limit has never been negotiated,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “This is not a normal thing to be politicized because it is irresponsible to politicize this. We have those debates [on spending and other related topics] in the budget process and in the government funding process, but we do not have those debates during the debt limit negotiation because this is about paying for bills that have already been voted for and authorized.”

When discussing immigration, AOC mentioned how Title 42, passed during the early days of the pandemic, has since become weaponized to deport immigrants out of the United States. There were concerns that once Title 42 expired, there would be a significant increase in border crossings. However, since it ended on May 11, AOC said the opposite has been true thus far.

According to AOC, from an economic standpoint, New York state, as well as many other states, would benefit from an immigrant population. She pointed to the strong agricultural sector in upstate New York, which she claimed is in desperate need for farm workers. Other sectors she cited that could benefit from bringing in immigrants for works included hospitality and hotels.

“When asylees are here and they’re in shelters, the number one thing that they say is ‘We don’t want to be in a shelter. We want to work,'” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And we have people saying, ‘let us hire them.’ The problem is that federal policy is getting in the way.”

AOC said those who come to the country for asylum are often forced to wait nearly a year before qualifying for work authorization. As a result of many asylum seekers not immediately qualifying for this, a strain is often put on the shelter system since they aren’t able to make enough money to support their families. She has pushed on a state and federal level to allow for a “state-sponsored parole,” which would allow for these asylum seekers to immediately get work authorization. AOC claimed that some Republican governors have even supported this.

When asked about protections for undocumented immigrants in the workforce, AOC said she has conducted preliminary conversations with union partners. She noted that the present law prevents undocumented workers from being able to formally unionize. However, she also credited organizations like the New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)  and Make the Road for their work in organizing undocumented communities.

“What we’ve been doing in the short term is making sure we at least marshal federal resources to those organizations,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “But in the long run, I think a big thing that we should be doing is also taking a look at some of those existing obstacles to formal and union membership and seeing what we can do about that as well. This is about actually securing a path to citizenship in this country. Solutions for the undocumented community I believe are always short-term and mid-term because the long-term goal is to not have an undocumented community in this country.”

According to AOC, $663,000 in affordable housing was secured for Corona. The project will be run by Elmcor Housing. 30 affordable housing units are being built. Additionally, $750,000 was secured to open the first STEM preschool in Corona. This preschool is located in the New York Hall of Science. The first class just recently came through. Finally, $3 million was secured for the expansion of the Plaza del Sol Family Health Center.