Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Monday that Illinois will temporarily stop taking in new Syrian refugees, joining seven other Republican governors in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Rauner’s decision comes after officials said at least one of the Paris attackers entered Europe amid the recent influx of migrants from the war-torn country.
“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,” Rauner said in a statement. “We must find a way to balance our tradition as a state welcoming of refugees while ensuring the safety and security of our citizens.”
Rauner said his office will “consider all of our legal options” as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security undergoes a review of acceptance and security processes.
Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration, which helps place refugees in their new homes, said governors have no power to limit where a refugee can live after their entrance to the U.S. is granted by the federal government.
She questioned how states would enforce bans on Syrian refugees, and said it feeds into anti-Islamic sentiment that could lead to harassment and attacks.
“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?” Limon said. “Clearly I don’t know whether this is bluster or political grandstanding, and I would love to hear what their attorneys thing, but it clearly sets the tone for a very negative environment.”
“They are really reacting emotionally and talk about stereotyping,” Limon said. “99.9 percent of all Syrians are not terrorists, there are obviously some who are and there are some Americans who are terrorists. Why let French or Belgium citizens in? They were they apparent ring leaders, it’s a collective punishment and clearly not well thought out.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel stopped short of directly criticizing Rauner for the move. Instead the mayor pointed out that the federal government performs background checks on refugees before they get here and said the U.S. has a history as a welcoming place for people fleeing trouble elsewhere in the world.
“The United States government is reviewing anybody and all of their papers,” Emanuel said when asked to respond to Rauner’s decision while appearing at the French Consulate downtown to offer his support to the country in the wake of the attacks. “That’s a year away from the present moment. My one word is, security and our values go hand in hand. The United States government is in the vetting process, but our values are one in which we remind ourselves that we are an open, welcoming society. So the United States government, in conjunction, is actually vetting any of the migrants that are going to Europe.”
Asked to clarify whether he agrees with Rauner’s decision, the mayor again pointed out there’s a federal process in place, while calling for vigilance.
“I think that we’ve got to make sure, I think there’s a lesson to be learned in what happened in Paris, that as they vet people and their background, that the United States government is vigilant,” Emanuel said. “Obviously, if the governor of Illinois says something, Chicago’s not a separate entity from that. I would caution that we work with our federal partners that are doing the background and vetting process about helping Europe handle the migrant challenge that they have today from the Mideast.”
Emanuel said he will go ahead with plans he already made to attend a Dec. 4 summit on climate change in Paris. Standing alongside French Consul General Vincent Floreani, Emanuel said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo invited him to attend the summit when the two met during his trip there this summer.
“I was going to do it, because that’s an important issue for the city of Chicago,” he said. “Given recent acts, I was going to announce it a week from now, but I wanted to announce it today to make sure those who thought you could weaken or somehow sow fear, that is not the result here. In fact, if anything, it strengthens our resolve to be a sense of fraternity and camaraderie with the people of Paris at this moment.”
Politicians have begun reacting to Rauner’s announcement. Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Andrea Zopp criticized the move, calling it “another example of Gov. Rauner ignoring those in need.”
As of September, 94 refugees from Syria have been resettled in Illinois, including 62 in Chicago, according to the Refugee Processing Center, operated by the U.S. State Department. That’s about three times as many as in all of 2014, though those numbers don’t include Syrians seeking asylum, which is a separate process.
The other states to impose a temporary ban despite President Barack Obama’s opposition are Texas, Michigan, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana and Massachusetts.
Here is Rauner’s full statement:
“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.”