It was a very short and succinct statement released by Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s office, but that short statement was a mouthful, as the Illinois Governor joined mostly Republicans across the nation in putting a temporary stop against President Barack Obama’s existing plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, said Politico on Monday. Rauner was one of at least 25 governors — all but two were Republicans — fearing terrorist attacks from fleeing Syrians trying to escape violent civil war. Governor Bruce Rauner, through his Press Secretary Catherine Kelly said, “Our nation and our state have a shared history of providing safe haven for those displaced by conflict, but the news surrounding the Paris terror attacks reminds us of the all-too-real security threats facing America. We must find a way to balance our tradition as a state welcoming of refugees while ensuring the safety and security of our citizens. Therefore, the state of Illinois will temporarily suspend accepting new Syrian refugees and consider all of our legal options pending a full review of our country’s acceptance and security processes by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
The reaction to Governor Rauner was swift. The Chicago Tribune quoted Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration, who was critical of Rauner and the other governors. “How are they going to go about doing this? Are they going to send marshals to the airport and be on the lookout for anyone who looks Syrian? They are really reacting emotionally, and talk about stereotyping.” However, Rich Miller of Capitol Fax reminds that the numbers for Illinois in particular, are small. “We’re not talking big numbers,” said Miller.
“The key word here is ‘temporarily,’ Miller pointed out. “They just want to pause this while they get some more assurances from the federal government about who is being brought in, what their backgrounds really are, etc. Also, they’re very sensitive to the fact that some of these refugees are Christians fleeing radical Islamic tyranny – which some of the far right commenters here and elsewhere should probably try to consider.”
With emphasis, Miller added, “Again, it’s a pause, not a full stop.”
The Chicago Tribune reported this past September, “So far in 2015, 94 refugees from Syria have been resettled in Illinois, 62 of them in Chicago, according to data from the Refugee Processing Center, operated by the U.S. State Department. That’s about three times the placements in all of last year, with 24 Syrian refugees resettled in Illinois, 18 of which were in Chicago.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was asked about Rauner’s statement, and while he wasn’t directly critical, the mayor pointed out that the “Federal government performs background checks on refugees before they get here. Emanuel added that the U.S. has a history as a welcoming place for people fleeing trouble elsewhere in the world.
In another Chicago development regarding the Syrian refugees, 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, released a letter he sent to President Obama, challenging Governor Rauner’s authority on the matter. “Today, the Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, declared that Illinois would not welcome Syrian refugees. He’s wrong,” wrote Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. “Governor Rauner lacks the legal authority to close Illinois’ doors to people seeking safety. Governor Rauner lacks the moral authority to close Illinois’ doors to refugees fleeing violence.”
Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa added, “In the face of hatred and fear, my community chooses love. Our neighborhoods will not close their doors to Syrian refugees. The 35th Ward of the City of Chicago welcomes Syrian families seeking safety, we welcome them with open hearts and open minds.”