By SHANNON WATKINS
“I’m not a policy person,” said Lou Kadiri, constituent services director for Senator Mark Warner’s Roanoke office. “If I was, I’d be in D.C.”
Kadiri made a stop at the Radford Public Library Tuesday morning from 10:30 a.m. until noon as a representative of Warner. She came not to interpret or answer questions about Warner’s policies or opinions, but to take their concerns back to his office or to direct them to the proper channels.
A handful of Radford and Montgomery County citizens showed up at the meeting, some knowing about the meeting in advance and some coming in from browsing the stacks. They broached topics such as problems filing disability claims, concerns about immigration policies, and choices of gubernatorial candidates.
“It’s been wearing me out,” said a man who said he had filed for social security disability benefits but the process was slow and difficult and filled with denials. He cited that his physical symptoms, along with anxiety and depression, were worsening. He brought documentation with him, some prepared by his wife.
“We’re just plain country folk, and the system’s wearing us down. We didn’t know where else to turn…Anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated,” he said.
Kadiri said, “What I’d like to do, I’ll take your copies. We have someone in our Richmond office, and she specializes in social security disability issues. So if you don’t mind, I’ll send this directly to her.” She gave him a privacy release to sign and accepted his information.
Deena Flinchum, a columnist for the Christiansburg News Messenger, came to ask about immigration policies. “I am just terribly concerned with what’s happening, especially with the Senate Bill 744. This bill, I believe, has the potential to do serious damage to U.S. workers,” she said.
Senate Bill 744 covers immigration reform, including giving immigration judges more opportunity to make case-by-case determinations on removal decisions.
She said, “I am probably to the left of Senator Warner, so I am not a Tea Party person. I’m not here screaming and yelling. I voted for Senator Warner twice.” Flinchum said that she believed that business interests were using immigrants to replace U.S. workers, “even though it doesn’t affect me personally.”
“My concern is that we’re going to have a rerun of the 1986 amnesty,” said Flinchum, pointing out that at the time she had supported the decision to grant amnesty to the 1.2 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., assuming enforcement would follow.
“Well, that never happened,” she said. “The amnesty occurred, the enforcement never came.” She said she felt that ordinary working life for a number of people would become, in her words, “a bit of a novelty…I’m just simply concerned about U.S. workers.”
She wound up by saying that according to statistics, it was likely that 33 million green cards would be given out in the U.S. to immigrants over the next decade and that “you cannot put people back to work by adding workers when the jobs are simply not there.”
Kadiri thanked her for her concerns and accepted papers and letters Flinchum brought illustrating her point.
Another citizen said she had come to make a brief complaint about the choices for governor in this election. “I would put down John Warner’s name in a heartbeat,” she said, if it was possible to write in a candidate. “But the choice this year, I cannot vote for either one.”
“I understand, I hear your frustration,” said Kadiri. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about that.”
After the event, Kadiri said that three people work in Warner’s Roanoke office, one of whom stays there and two of whom, herself included, travel the state from back to the West Virginia line, up to just south of Winchester, over to Charlottesville, and down to Henry County.
“I travel some but I also do federal casework and I also plan the Senators’ Virginia Women’s Conference, so I do a lot of different things. I’m probably on the road one or two days a week right now. I couldn’t ask for a better region because the scenery’s beautiful,” Kadiri said.
Of the number of people she can expect to see at each Warner on Your Corner event, “It really varies. I never know,” Kadiri said. “Sometimes I’ll get up to five or six. It just depends, I guess, on what’s on peoples’ minds.” She added, “Our job is to make government work for people. Our job is to get answers for the people.”