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Ron Wyden

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden fields a question from a student during a town hall at Crescent Valley High School.

When the first person asking a question to U.S. Sen.  Ron Wyden expressed support for President Donald Trump and his immigration policies, many in the crowd at the Friday's town hall at Crescent Valley High School booed and catcalled.

However, Wyden quickly interrupted the hecklers.

“Let’s give every speaker the respect they deserve,” he said, and the audience quieted down.

The crowd in Crescent Valley’s mostly full auditorium, which seats about 500, was made up of about half community members and half students.

Crescent Valley Principal Aaron McKee said with all the toxicity in politics today, he was excited the town hall gave students a chance to see the positive political discourse of a town hall.

“To have a senator come to your school is a big opportunity, regardless of your political views,” he said.

McKee said students could voluntarily choose to attend the town hall if they had a free class period at the same time as the event or parental permission to miss their scheduled class.

He said the visit by Wyden was both a learning opportunity for students and a chance for them to have a voice.

The town hall itself was structured with the Democratic Wyden taking questions from the audience, switching back and forth between community and student questions.

Students asked questions about Wyden’s work on the committee investigating Russian election interference and the Trump Organization, efforts to reform Immigration and Custom Enforcement, and restoring net neutrality.

Wyden said he would continue to focus on following the money in investigations of Russia and Trump.

“If you want to compromise somebody, you compromise them with money,” he said, later adding, “As long as I’m Oregon’s guy on the (Senate) Finance Committee, this investigation will not be swept under the rug.”

On the questions on immigration and ICE, Wyden said he has voted for border security measures, but he also backs limitations on surveillance and warrantless searches by ICE.

“Security and liberty are not mutually exclusive,” he said. “You can have policies that get you both.”

He also said he thinks immigration makes America stronger and has supported pathways to citizenship for people who are in the U.S. illegally.

During his response to the question on net neutrality, Wyden gave a student a chance to explain the concept for the audience. The student described it as a policy that prevents companies from being able to pay to make sure their content can get to internet users faster than their rivals, and the student gave an example of how that would work. Wyden praised the response as accurate.

He also expressed support for net neutrality and said he plans to introduce a new privacy bill in the next few weeks that will give people more transparency about who has and is using their data.

Wyden ended the town hall, the 905th he has done since being elected to the Senate in 1996, by saying it was valuable to hear from the students.

“You make all us adults feel really good,” he said.

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Anthony Rimel covers weekend events, education, courts and crime and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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