Norfolk Daily News: Congressman Gets Questions About Trade, World Issues

Aug 6, 2018
In The News

Many Nebraskans are exhausted when it comes to political squabbling, while also still positively imagining the possibilities of where America could be headed.

That was part of the message U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry shared during a town hall meeting Tuesday evening at the Norfolk City Council chambers.

The Republican from Lincoln spoke on tariffs, immigration, the trade deficit and taxes for about 30 minutes, then spent about another hour answering questions on additional topics, such as the president’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee and disabled veterans’ needs.

While here, some individuals also met privately with Fortenberry or his staff to discuss concerns.

One of the things Fortenberry urged for Americans to consider was this question: “Who are we and where are we going?”

Nebraskans, for example, might disagree on some political ideologies but share a vision for some things that will move the country forward.

As an example, Fortenberry provided an update on two immigration bills in Congress that were defeated.

“There was an alignment of several different ideas that I thought was very smart,” Fortenberry said. “It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I thought it moved us in the right direction.”

Fortenberry said the bills included three basic things: enhanced security with a wall and barriers; a policy to modernize the nation away from things like a visa lottery; and creation of humanity citizenship exceptions for situations like children who were brought to the United States through no control of their own.

Many people considered the bills to have some common sense, he said, yet they were defeated. That means there is “no chance” the bills will get passed yet this year, Fortenberry said.

Ultimately, the nation needs to “move upstream” and look at the reasons why immigrants are coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, among other places. Efforts should be to try to correct the conditions that are causing the migration, he said.

Fortenberry, who serves on the U.S. House Appropriations committee and is chairman of the Legislative Branch subcommittee, was invited in early July to travel to Iraq with a team to assess how U.S. aid was being distributed to religious minorities.

America has given so much to that country and sacrificed so many lives that it is hard to understand why there needs to be any ongoing involvement, Fortenberry said.

In northern Iraq, there once existed Christians and Yazidis, who reflected a “healthy pluralism.” ISIS targeted those communities for genocide, and many were killed. Now the Christian community is trickling back, Fortenberry said.

The largest number of Yazidi refugees — about 3,000 — are in Lincoln in the United States.

Fortenberry said he believes the economic regeneration money for this area should be given from the international community. But wherever it comes from, financial assistance is needed so a situation like this can’t happen again, he added.

While touring northern Iraq, he came across a hospital that had been destroyed and stepped on a sign that in Arabic stated, “Nurses Station.”

“Why would a person who defeats their so-called enemy destroy a hospital? You’d think they would use the hospital for their own,” Fortenberry said. “I asked the United Nations person there and she said when they want to make this society in their own image, they destroy the whole social fabric.”

That’s how “twisted and barbaric” this ideology is, the congressman said.

On other topics:

* Fortenberry said he doesn’t think shutting down the federal government is ever a good idea. While President Donald Trump at one point said he would potentially shut down the government if there wasn’t wall funding, he also said in some private conversations he might leave the idea of building the wall for awhile. Until then, there will continue to be significant funds spent on border security, he said.

Fortenberry said it is worth noting what another congressman once said about President Trump, “Don’t ever take the president literally but take him seriously.”

Fortenberry said what this all means is that the president is projecting to continue to work hard on this issue of securing the border. Securing the border is a critical component to multiple levels of the immigration debate, he said.

* Coming out of World War II, the U.S. was cast in a role to provide economic and military stability around the world. Now, when most nations have developed economies, there should be some sharing of that burden and load, Fortenberry said.

* The congressman stopped at one point in the town hall meeting to recognize Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning, who once worked for Fortenberry’s staff.

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