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President Trump’s foreign aid policies to blame for asylum seekers rushing to border

Life is dangerous for asylum seekers in their home countries, with criminal gangs. The president’s decision to cut foreign aid has made these countries even more dangerous

United States Border Patrol officers in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, return a group of migrants to the Mexico side of the border earlier this month.
United States Border Patrol officers in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, return a group of migrants to the Mexico side of the border earlier this month.
Salvador Gonzalez/Associated Press

A recent Better Government Association “fact-check” column in the Sun-Times challenged my statement that President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration stance has driven larger numbers of people to our border.

The author conceded that “asylum seekers are arriving at record levels,” but concluded there was no way to prove Trump’s policy or statements were a cause. She concluded my statement was “half true.”

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Absent interviews with a credible sample of asylum seekers, one cannot definitively prove the thinking of thousands of people who fled their countries to come to our border. Neither the writer nor I have such a sample to draw from.

However, I have spent several hours this year meeting with asylum seekers in El Paso and McAllen, Texas. Some of the poorest people in the Americas, they cashed in almost everything they owned and set out on a dangerous journey.

When I asked why they came, they told me life is dangerous in their home countries, with criminal gangs running roughshod over them, threatening their children. Experts tell us that the president’s mindless decision to cut off foreign aid has made these countries even more dangerous.

These families told me that traffickers demanded thousands of dollars to move them to our border. They had no choice because of Trump’s decision to shut down the option to apply for safe haven from their home countries.

And then they told me that the president’s repeated threats of a wall led them to believe that any delay would jeopardize their chances to make it to the U.S.

That explanation rings true to me, not half true.

We need border security, and we should never knowingly allow dangerous people into our country. A bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill, which I co-authored, passed the Senate six years ago. It would have fixed our broken immigration system and is still the best starting point for a productive national debate on immigration.

U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois

J.B. is one to talk

Governor J.B. Pritzker scolded parents who gave up guardianship of their children so that the kids could get more financial aid from colleges. Is this the same Gov. Pritzker who ripped the toilets out of his mansion to get a tax break?

Richard Crane, Lincoln Park