Foster supports path to citizenship, Khouri focused on earned legal status

 
 
Updated 10/14/2016 5:12 PM
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  • Democrat Bill Foster and Republican Tonia Khouri.

    Democrat Bill Foster and Republican Tonia Khouri.

Aurora Republican Tonia Khouri is a Donald Trump supporter, but says she differs from her party's presidential nominee in many ways, including her stance on immigration.

The 11th Congressional District candidate, who serves on the DuPage County Board and is a small-business owner, said her husband is an immigrant and she appreciates those who "come to this country and work hard." She supports earned legal status for those who qualify.

"I think we need to give people the opportunity to get right with the law," she said.

But that is a shared responsibility, she said, between immigrants and the federal government, which she says has been talking about changing such laws for decades without accomplishing much.

"Nothing is happening," she said. "Let's get something done. Let's focus on earned legal status as the first step, and then we can talk about citizenship."

Incumbent Bill Foster, a Democrat from Naperville, said he believes not just in earned legal status, but in a "tough, but fair" path to citizenship.

Foster, who is seeking a third term representing the 11th District, said he supported a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013 and co-sponsored a House companion bill that received bipartisan support.

"I was very disappointed when the leadership in Congress -- despite the fact that we had a majority of members of the U.S. House lined up to vote in favor of that bipartisan compromise -- did not even allow it to come up for a vote," he said.

Foster said the deal would have improved border security, not with funding from Mexico, but by making people on the path to citizenship pay taxes without receiving federal benefits. He said it also would have helped the economy and ensured anyone with significant criminal records would not be allowed to stay in the U.S.

The issue of immigration is a hot one because the district -- which covers parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties, including Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Burr Ridge and Joliet -- has a large Latino population.

Khouri said while she would like to see significant changes made to immigration policies, creating and debating those policies is pointless until borders are secured. She said if Trump is elected and proposes construction of a wall along the Mexico border, she would support it.

"If that would protect Americans from heroin coming into this country and terrorists coming into this country, yes, I would," she said.

Foster noted, however, that Mexicans now have visa-free travel to Canada.

"If you're really talking about having a wall all around our country ... you're talking about having to build a wall with Canada as well, which is not something I support," he said.

At one point during their Daily Herald endorsement interview, Khouri asked Foster if he knew the two primary cities in Mexico where Latinos living in Aurora are from. He said he wasn't sure and she said the cities were Durango and Michoacan, along with Jalisco.

Michoacan and Jalisco, however, are Mexican states, not cities.

"How do I know that? Because I spent time with the people," Khouri said. "Being a representative is about representing the people and to be an effective representative you have to know the people, you have to understand them and most of all respect the people you want to serve. My opponent does not do that."

Foster said Khouri's claims that he doesn't know or respect his constituents are not true. He argued that Khouri's support of Trump is contradictory to her statements about knowing and respecting the Latino community, since "a linchpin of his campaign has insisted that the people you talk about, a large fraction of them, would be forced out of this country."

"I can guarantee this district will not vote for Donald Trump, and should not vote for Donald Trump," Foster said. "It says a lot about what our values are and how we would represent people."

"I'm offended that my opponent groups me in with all of the other Republicans," Khouri said. "I am my own person."

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