In sit-down with The Eagle, Sen. Warren discusses Berkshires issues, from broadband and WCBV to arts funding

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GREAT BARRINGTON — "We're on this."

That was U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's response to a question about the loss of WCBV-TV of Boston from the Spectrum cable television lineup for Berkshire County.

Speaking to The Eagle on Sunday in an exclusive interview, Warren noted that local TV is important.

"It makes a big difference. It's a part of how our democracy works and a part of how our economy works — a part of how we build a strong future," Warren said. "So Sen. Markey and I are both on this one. We're doing everything we can both to push the government agencies and to push the companies involved in this. We're on this."

She noted that with the current makeup of the House and Senate, and the occupant of the White House, "it is an uphill battle."

Warren was asked to respond to criticism from a political opponent over her call for the elimination of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"I am in favor of reforming ICE, top to bottom" Warren noted. "And I have said so now on multiple occasions."

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She recalled her trip to an immigrant detention facility in Texas.

"I met with mothers who had their children taken away from them — mothers who had been lied to, who had not spoken to their children, who had no idea where their children were," Warren said. "I also met with the ICE officials in charge. It became clear to me that this is an organization that needs reform. The larger question of course is about immigration reform."

She said comprehensive immigration reform is needed, "But ICE has created particular problems. I met with the head of the detention center that had had been renamed a family reunification center. This place is a prison, but that's just not the legal term for it. But that's sure what it looked like — tall, chain-link fences with razor wire on top, people in lock down, I asked how they were planning to reuinify mothers with their children. And his answer was `I don't know.' He just shrugged. He kept saying, `That's not my problem, that's someone else's problem.'"

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Warren noted that every mother she talked to explained that officials took their children by lying, saying the child need to bathe, or is going for some play time, only to never come back.

"Every woman I spoke to at the detention center had lost their child through deceptions that were carried out in the name of the United States of America. One mother talked about how the facility was very cold. So the customs official told her it's too cold for the children so we're going to take them somewhere else where it's warmer and you'll be reunited later. She is now in a long-term detention facility and had not heard another word about her child and every time she asks, the officials in charge say they don't know anything."

Another mother, Warren recalled, was taken from her 7-year-old boy in the middle of the night while he was asleep on the floor, "never to see him again. She kept crying and crying, and saying over and over, `I never got to say goodbye.'"

"That's not right," Warren continued. "We need government agencies that reflect our values."

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The Eagle asked Warren to respond to her Republican opponents who claim she is more focused on her own political career than in tending to the voters of Massachusetts and Berkshire County.

"I began the fight for the U.S. Senate back in 2011 because I believe our government was working more and more for the rich and powerful and less and less for everyone else," she said. "I promised I would work on education, infrastructure and health care to help make the lives of working people a little stronger in this country and that is exactly what I have done right here in Berkshire County."

As an example, she brought up higher education.

"I have been fighting for-profit colleges and their student loan processors that cheat our kids who are trying to get an education," Warren said. "I managed to persuade the Department of Education to forgive loans on 4,500 young people who had been ripped off by their lenders, and those include people right here in Berkshire County who are now able to shake off this debt and start to build a life.

"Same thing on infrastructure. I've fought hard for investments in broadband so that there is more access to communications infrastructure out here in Berkshire County and we've made some improvements — not nearly enough, but some improvements. No one can be part of the 21st-century economy if they don't have fast, cheap access to broadband. And I'll keep fighting to for that.

"Funding for the arts," Warren continued. "Donald Trump's first budget proposed to zero-out the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. I rounded up a group of senators to fight for funding for both of those agencies, and not only were these agencies not cut, we actually got budget increases for both of them. That matters in places like the Berkshires where the arts community is so important."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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