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Immigration, healthcare lead CD21 debate

Immigration and healthcare were primary topics of a debate Nov. 6 involving candidates vying for the Congressional District 21 seat.

On Oct. 16, Democrat Joseph Kopser and Republican Chip Roy squared off in a televised forum in downtown Austin. The two are fighting for a seat vacated by Rep. Lamar Smith that covers an area from Austin down to far South Texas, including parts of Hays County.

The two candidates expressed polar opposite views on how to tackle immigration to the U.S. 

Roy, a former chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz, said the United States has a sovereign responsibility to protect its borders, citing a personal anecdote of a voter whose husband was killed at the hands of an undocumented resident.  

Roy said he is a proponent of border walls, applauding efforts in Southern California where the addition of a physical wall on the California-Mexico border saw a decrease in illegal immigration to the state.

“It’s really fundamentally important for the immigrants, who are unfortunately getting sold into the sex trafficking business, riding on the tops of train cars and moms dying in the desert, because we do not as a sovereign nation secure our border but rather in the false name of compassion have open borders that are causing that environment in the first place,” Roy said.

Kopser, a 20-year Army veteran and entrepreneur disagreed that building border walls would be a comprehensive solution to help combat undocumented residents entering the country. However, Kopser said he is not a proponent of open borders, which is contrary to claims Roy has made during his campaign.

“We can do both, which is to be a beacon of hope around the world to allow those immigrants seeking a better life, those who want to work here and those seeking asylum to process them and figure out the best way for their future going forward,” Kopser said. 

Both also had different viewpoints on healthcare reform as well. While both believe the system is broken, Roy and Kopser have opposing views on how to fix it.

“We’ve got to fix our healthcare system because it’s broken,” Roy said. “I believe it’s badly broken in significant part because Obamacare took the decision-making out of the hands of people and the ability to access the doctors and healthcare of their choosing.”

Roy is a proponent of diversifying the citizenry’s healthcare choices, keeping the federal government away from a person’s right to choose his or her provider.  

Roy said that could be accomplished by allowing people the access to a health savings account and through various health sharing and ministry organizations. This will bring costs down, which he believes is the biggest issue associated with healthcare.

“I believe fundamentally that we need healthcare for all,” Kopser said. No one should have to (choose between) filling a prescription or filling their pantry.”

Kopser said that could be achieved by expanding Medicaid, which Texas lawmakers denied the expansion of in 2017, leaving nearly $6 billion of federal money on the table.

Kopser criticized Roy for taking government provided healthcare when he worked for Cruz, while actively fighting against the coverage for 300,000 Texans with pre-existing conditions.

“I don’t want to say he’s a hypocrite, but a ‘Chip-ocrite,’” Kopser said.

Roy said he didn’t take benefits that weren’t earned, citing the $1,900 a month he paid for healthcare, a large sum of money that stemmed from a broken system the Democrats created.

“If you want to fix the problem, you need to put money in the pockets of the American people and allow them to go get healthcare in the market so they can get the doctor of their choosing without the government getting in the way,” Roy said.

Kopser said his experience in the military and as a business owner makes him the candidate to lead the district. He cited his effort on job growth and education initiatives through Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs. 

Roy said his family has lived in Texas since the 1850s with ancestors involved in public service in San Marcos and across District 21 for generations.

Roy said he’s a proponent of preserving local control, keeping Washington out of the way so “Texas can be Texas and California can be California.”

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