Town Halls Came To Miami, But Where Were All The Young People?

In recent weeks, members of Congress have been holding town halls—a local meeting with their constituents—throughout the nation in order to address the concerns of citizens regarding immigration reform, the Russian interference on the 2016 election, and the presently-unknown Obamacare replacement plan.

Local South Florida representatives have not followed the trend of other senators and representatives by skipping on some locally organized town halls.

On Feb. 22, dozens of activists gathered outside congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s office demanding a meeting with the congresswoman. Amongst them was 25-year-old FIU student Tomas Kennedy, who said he wanted to see the Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen take “stronger positions on healthcare and immigration.”

Later in the evening, I met with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s chief of staff Maytee Sanz, who insisted that the congresswoman, despite being busy meeting with other constituents at the moment, was in favor of “comprehensive immigration reform” as well as maintaining support for the DREAM act, which prevented people who arrived to the United States illegally as minors from being deported during the Obama administration.

The following day, a second town hall meant for senator Marco Rubio to attend was hosted at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Miami by local political organization Indivisible Miami.

Local officials attending the town hall included South Miami mayor Philip K. Stoddard and Miami Beach Commissioner and speech professor at Kendall Campus Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who alongside an anxious crowd, condemned Senator Rubio’s absence from the event.

Aside from being strongly displeased with Senator Rubio’s absence, the residents who attended still voiced their concerns with the hopes that the Senator will come across them. Not only were the concerns at this town hall similar to those raised just the day before at congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen’s office, but the demographics of the events closely mirrored each other; aside from a handful of young people, the crowds were mostly composed of Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, a distinct contrast from the anti-Trump marches in Downtown Miami following the 2016 election results.

Town halls are important events where public policy is debated between representatives and their constituents. The lack of young people present in said events is not only detrimental to our interests but it also severely undermines our voices.

According to the Pew Research Center, voters under 30 now rival baby boomers at the voting booth being roughly 31 percent of the electorate, yet the lack of political efficacy from young people in crucial moments such as town halls makes representation of young people disproportionate.

It is no surprise then that the topics addressed in both town halls focused primarily on healthcare—something senior citizens are especially concerned about—while higher education, the DREAM act, and DACA were mentioned less frequently.

If you are a young voter who feels disenfranchised by current politics, I would like to leave you with the words of Gonzalez: “If you are an immigrant or you know anybody who is an immigrant or you know anybody who is undocumented, now is the time for all of you to become active.”