Grassley visits Marshalltown

Immigration, tax reform, North Korea among topics discussed at Chamber Q&A session

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley discussed immigration, tax reform, North Korea and more at a Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce question-and-answer session Thursday. Area residents and business leaders turned out to the event at the Fisher Community Center auditorium.

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley discussed immigration, tax reform, North Korea and more at a Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce question-and-answer session Thursday. Area residents and business leaders turned out to the event at the Fisher Community Center auditorium.

From North Korea to immigration, several topics came up during a question-and-answer session with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley at Fisher Community Center Thursday.

The Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, and dozens of area residents and business leaders attended.

“I do very much support giving legalization to DACA kids,” Grassley said, referring to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order that gave protected status to about 800,000 people brought to the United States illegally as children. “For humanitarian purposes, we ought to give them certainty.”

President Donald Trump ended DACA in September of 2017, leaving it up to the U.S. Congress to decide the fate of the program.

“A lot of people on the extreme right would say ‘Well, they broke the law,'” Grassley said. “Well, maybe technically they did, but they came here with their parents, so I say the parents broke the law, the kids are not guilty of that.”

Congressional Democrats brought the issue up in January ahead of and during a federal government shutdown, but no deal was made. Grassley said passing a so-called “clean” DACA law, without provisions for added border security, will probably not happen.

“In order to get 60 votes, you have to have Republican votes,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to have enough Republicans vote with all the Democrats so that they can get over 60.”

In the case that such a bill did get enough votes in the U.S. Senate, Grassley said the U.S. House of Representatives would not pass such legislation.

Grassley said the “four pillars” of immigration reform Trump mentioned in his State of the Union address earlier this week are included in a bill he and five colleagues are working on.

“The four pillars that the president agreed to on Jan. 9 is what my bill, that our group put together, is centered around,” he said, adding the four pillars are “Take care of the DACA kids, border security, end chain migration and the … visa lottery.”

A 2,000-mile long cement wall is not what Grassley said is meant by “border security.” He said fencing, electronic surveillance and increased border patrol would be possible measures.

Also discussed Thursday was the possible nuclear threat of North Korea.

Grassley said he is “pretty worried” about the situation with the country and its leader, Kim Jong-un, who he described as “unpredictable.” He added North Korea’s military demonstrations often show more advancement than expected by U.S. officials.

However, Grassley added there are encouraging signs.

“There is some progress being made from the pressure [of] the international sanctions and the [United Nations] sanctions and even our own sanctions are putting on North Korea that may be bringing him to the table,” he said, adding recent talks between North and South Korea are also a good sign.

Grassley also commented on recent calls from Congressional Republicans to release a memo on the FBI in relation to the Trump-Russia investigation.

“What do people have to cover up? I think the president ought to release them,” he said of the memo. “I’ve had a tough time, not only from the FBI, which is supposed to be non-political, but also from a Republican [U.S.] Justice Department; I’ve had trouble getting the information we need, just like pulling teeth.”

Grassley also touted the tax reform legislation that passed into law in December of 2017. He said small businesses and middle-income people, not just corporations, will benefit from the changes.

“We don’t have complete equity now, but you’ve got a recognition that small business ought to have some return on risks for investment capital by a 25-percent above-the-line deduction for whatever income they have, that they won’t have to pay taxes on,” he said. “We reduced the corporate tax rate down from 35 (percent) to 21 (percent), we didn’t do that to just help corporations; we did that because we were economically un-competitive with our international competition.”

He also rebuked critics’ analysis of the law.

“You’re still hearing this rhetoric, ‘Oh, it’s a tax cut for the rich!'” Grassley said. “Well, I can show you every tax bracket has reduced, and the highest-income tax bracket got the lowest-percentage reduction.”

Grassley’s visit to Marshalltown Thursday covered several other topics, and was one of several annual meetings he holds in the state’s 99 counties.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com