NAPLES — A Monday night community meeting with U.S. Rep. Trey Radel in East Naples was labeled a “listening session.”
For two hours, however, it sounded more like a venting session, with about 100 people filling the chamber usually used for Collier County Commission meetings.
There was talk of health care, a call from an audience member to impeach President Barack Obama and concern from immigration reform advocates. Gauging applause, most of the audience was Radel supporters.
The congressman uses the ongoing series of community meetings around Southwest Florida as a barometer of public opinion.
Radel spent the 90-minute session addressing audience questions on hot-button issues and talking about amendments he’s passed in the House, like legislation that requires Congressional approval before committing troops to Syria.
The freshman Republican congressman, who represents coastal Southwest Florida and a swath of East Naples, called a U.S. Senate immigration overhaul proposal “DOA in the House” and a “catastrophic failure.”
“It won’t see the light of day,” in the House, Radel said of the bill.
Instead, he reiterated support for piecemeal legislation coming from House colleagues like Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, with bills that will be unveiled in a few months.
To cut off unauthorized immigration from the source, according to Radel, “you do what you can with free trade to assist the booming economy down south so mothers and fathers can put food on their kid’s plate and don’t need to come here.”
Radel, part of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that deals with North and South America, cited the agreement with Colombia, which went into force last year, as a success story for such arrangements.
He also expressed support for the so-called “Dreamers” — young, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children by their parents.
“I think there’s something morally that needs to be done,” Radel said of including them in a reform bill.
The question from an attendee that elicited the most audience response, however, was if Radel would move to impeach the president.
To the chagrin of some vociferous audience members, Radel responded with a firm “no.”
Radel will host two more “listening sessions” this week in Southwest Florida:
A meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Edison State College, 8099 College Parkway, Building U, Room 102, Fort Myers.
A radio listening session at 6 p.m. Thursday on WFSX 92.5 FOX News. Call in: 239-479-5592.