PORTAGE — U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky was challenged on the proposed border wall and the divide that has the federal government partially shut down at a public forum Friday at Woodland Park.
Visclosky said he supports walls on the southern border where needed and the use of resources like technology to cover the gaps more cost effectively.
He also disputed the need for a wall on the entire border, saying 41 suspected terrorists were stopped trying to enter from Canada while six were caught from Mexico the last half of 2018.
Visclosky said he also didn’t want to invite the dark images associated with other barriers like the Berlin Wall once separating Germany.
"I don’t know what history would say about us 100 years from now. I don’t want to be remembered for that," Visclosky said.
Some of the 70 audience members applauded Visclosky for his stance on border security.
Donald Bradbury, 71, of Hobart, was among a few people debating Visclosky for several minutes in defense of a border wall.
Bradbury said the president should be given the funding he wants for extending current barriers due to the amount of money the partial shutdown has already cost the government.
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"Why not just say, 'hey, here’s the $5 billion to build that damn wall,'" Bradbury said.
The other man, who did not want to be identified, said the best thing Visclosky can do is support a president whose policies have helped the steel industry and support a wall being constructed with American steel.
Visclosky said one of his top priorities for 2019 is continued focus on wages that have risen when adjusted for inflation just .18 cents an hour since 1978.
"People who work hard in this region and our country are having a difficult time making end's meet," Visclosky said.
Visclosky said he also wants to help make sure gains in the US steel industry from tariffs imposed by the president on foreign steel are not undermined by ongoing efforts of China and other countries to do so.
Visclosky also predicted federal dollars for the proposed double track for the South Shore Commuter line from Michigan City to Gary will be approved.
"It’s not a matter of it. It’s when," he said.