ROCK HILL — With just a few hours left before federal spending cuts take effect, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney fielded questions about a wide range of issues Thursday night in Rock Hill.
For the second time since the two-term congressman has been in office, the Rock Hill chapter of the NAACP hosted Mulvaney in a town hall-style meeting.
The looming sequester, which includes cutting more than $500 billion from the Department of Defense and other national security agencies budgets, had a March 1 deadline for the automatic cuts to take place.
Mulvaney said the cuts represent a very, very small percentage of money, but hes concerned about the huge hit to national security spending.
The military, he said, is one place hed look to cut spending and help the nation crawl out of its $16 trillion debt.
Taking 11 percent of the defense budget away at once, Mulvaney said, is not the best way to find savings, though.
Several audience members Tuesday pressed Mulvaney on immigration issues.
Congress is on its way, Mulvaney said, to solving long-standing immigration problems and dealing fairly, morally and ethically with people living illegally in the U.S.
Our legal immigration process has broken down under the weight of illegal immigration, he said.
Mulvaney describes his approach to fixing immigration issues as a three-legged stool solution, saying the federal government needs to secure the nations borders, make legal immigration easier and create a pathway to status for the 11 million people living undocumented in the U.S.
Border security is not just a physical wall, he said, but requires tracking people who come to the U.S. legally and overstay their visas.
The economy, he said, will grow by letting more people in to live and work legally.
He supports a pathway to status that allows immigrants to leave the U.S. and re-enter as they wish and to live in American without fear of deportation.
I think that we can figure out a way that allows those 11 million people to stay, to work legally and to participate in our system possibly without having the right to vote and not having the right to full welfare benefits or something like that, he said.
Once able to work legally, noncitizens should have access to the benefits their income taxes support, said Sherman ONeal Porterfield, a local activist and Pineville, N.C., pastor.
In some form, I think I can agree with that, Mulvaney said to Porterfield. The full palette of rights of citizenships Im not there yet.
To give full citizenship rights to people who are already here illegally, Mulvaney said, is probably unfair to people waiting to enter the U.S. legally.
Theres a moral difference, too, he said, between granting legal status for people who were brought to the U.S. as children by no fault of their own and granting legal status to adults willfully breaking the law.
From health care to gun control to unemployment, Tuesday nights meeting covered a good range of questions, said Rock Hill NAACP Chapter President Melvin Poole.
I thought they really took the congressman to task and asked him some tough questions, he said.
And I think he did an excellent job responding to them. ... People are really studying the issues now, and they come in here educated.
In the audience of about 30 people on Thursday, most probably did not vote for Mulvaney last year, Poole said.
Even though we didnt vote for him, hes still our congressman, and he still has some responsibility to respond to our needs, he said. I respect him for that.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068