The Maneater

Claire McCaskill speaks about college affordability, DACA, other issues at student forum

About 200 students attended the forum, which took place Friday afternoon in Jesse Wrench Auditorium.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill speaks at Columbia City Hall on March 18, 2014. courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., spoke at Memorial Student Union Friday afternoon to a room filled with nearly 200 students and community members as part of her reelection campaign, answering questions about her work and goals on various issues. The forum was hosted by Mizzou College Democrats.

She began her forum with a short speech about her position on college affordability, refinancing student loan debt, net neutrality and campus sexual assault.

McCaskill then opened the event up to questions attendees submitted on forms. Questions she answered related to climate change, regulations relating to the war on terror, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and DREAM Act status, gun violence in schools, Medicare, foreign policy and government spending on education.

During the forum, a dozen people stood dressed in black for solidarity while they took turns asking McCaskill questions about her work with immigration. They wanted to know how she would ensure immigration reform that included protections for DACA recipients and their families.

One of these people, Brayan Mejia, a 23-year-old undocumented St. Louis resident, human resource manager and member of MO Dreamers, travels around the state and the country to advocate for protections for DACA recipients, DREAMers and undocumented residents. He has been in the U.S. since fifth grade, but he and his family face potential deportation.

“I want it to be heard because it’s important for me; it’s important for my life,” Mejia said. “There’s a lot at risk right now … so it’s really important to me that the DREAM Act gets passed so that I stop worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

McCaskill reassured the DREAMers and their allies that the recent government shutdown guaranteed the passage of a bill protecting DACA recipients. She said to hold her accountable if nothing was done by March 5, the DACA reapplication deadline.

“We ended the [government] shutdown, but we ended it with an agreement that for the first time in four years, a bill will go to the floor for debate and decision in the U.S. Senate for DACA protections,” McCaskill said. “And, more importantly, it will start with a neutral shell.”

In response to the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, McCaskill said she wants to make sure law enforcement is working together with universities and that there is information available to both victims and people who have been accused. She said there is a general lack of understanding about the ramifications of Title IX complaints.

“I know one of the biggest challenges we have is a memorandum of understanding between law enforcement and college campuses,” McCaskill said. “If someone is assaulted on a Friday night, they’re not sure [if] they tell campus police [or if] they tell anyone and what the difference is between going to the university or the police.”

Sophomore Sarah Schlote, a member of Mizzou College Democrats, came to the forum in support of McCaskill. She encourages students to come to political events regardless of affiliation in order to be informed voters.

“I think people our age should be involved in politics and know what’s going on,” Schlote said. “And I think the best way to do that is to actually get involved when there are opportunities like this so they continue to happen. Not just Democrats, but whoever.”

McCaskill is up for reelection for her third term in November. Her reelection bid follows President Trump’s 19-point margin of victory in Missouri in 2016. McCaskill wants to ensure Democratic representation for the state and encouraged students to register and to vote, volunteer on her campaign and enable her to speak at more events on campus.

“I don’t need to tell you that 2016 was not a great year for the Democrats in Missouri,” McCaskill said. “It was a year that the pendulum swung, and frankly Missouri has always had a little of both in statewide office. We’ve always had a few Republicans, and we’ve always had a few Democrats … I hope that we don’t change so that everybody is of one party. I don’t think that’s healthy for our government.”

Edited by Skyler Rossi | srossi@themaneater.com

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