GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Hundreds of people attended a Grand Rapids town hall meeting with U.S. Representative Justin Amash Thursday evening. The meeting at City High School became contentious at times with some people unhappy with Amash's decision to support Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education and his cosponsoring of a bill to eliminate the Department of Education.
This was Amash's second town hall meeting of the year, with questions on everything from Social Security to military spending in addition to the Department of Education.
Amash (R- Grand Rapids) has also taken a stance against Trump's immigration ban, saying that he should work with Congress before changing immigration law. It was a message Amash echoed during a one-on-one interview with FOX 17 on Thursday.
"I think [Trump] is exceeding his authority here by banning people on the basis of nationality, and this is only with respect to immigrants who are coming here," said Amash. "He can, under his authority, ban people who want to travel here, like students or tourists or business people who want to come here. He can also ban refugees, but with respect to legal immigrants, that's a totally different issue."
While Amash has been an outspoken critic of President Trump during his first few weeks in office, he is siding with Mr. Trump on the issue of the Affordable Care Act.
"It hasn't worked for most Americans," said Amash. "It is working for some Americans, and we should listen to all of the perspectives out there and hear from people who like the Affordable Care Act. We should also hear from people who don't like it and try to craft some new proposal that addresses all those concerns. I think that the states really should come up with a new proposal. When we pass a repeal bill, the repeal should be triggered in each state independently on that state's timeline within the next few years."
In his interview with FOX 17, the congressman clarified his position on the Department of Education and the new education secretary. "It's always been my position that the U.S. Department of Education has federal overreach. It's not authorized under our Constitution. It's supposed to be handled at the state level, but I think Betsy will do a good job of bringing people together, and she'll be able to make the most of what we have there. I think she will reach out to a lot of people and be a good bridge between people on the left and right."
After discussion a number of hot-button issues, people left Thursday's town hall with some mixed-feelings.
Leticia Heustis from the Michigan People's Campaign had concerns on undocumented immigrants. "Overall I think it was a very productive meeting," she said . "I'm happy I'm leaving with some kind of hope, and I can go to my community and tell them he is trying to preserve and trying to work towards making sure that those dreamers, the young people, are going to be able to remain in the county and thrive in their community."
"I have a child with special needs, so healthcare and special education are at the forefront in our family's priorities, and they didn't really seem forefront in his priorities," said Lara Kitts from the Michigan People's Campaign.
Thursday's town hall went 45 minutes longer than planned, and still most people weren't able to get their questions answered. Rep. Amash joked that the next town hall he hosts needs to be somewhere even bigger, such as Van Andel Arena.