Sweet: Rauner’s refugee ban ignored as Dems, GOP disagree on issue

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WASHINGTON – A  Syrian family fleeing war starts a new life in Chicago on Wednesday, despite Gov. Bruce Rauner’s temporary ban on accepting Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks.

The Muslim family of five – parents and three children – will be assisted by volunteers organized by Exodus World Service, the non-profit headquartered in suburban Bloomingdale dedicated to mobilizing “the Christian community to welcome refugees.”

Julie Carlsen, a senior director of programs at Exodus, said in an interview, “Exodus continues to welcome refugees, including Syrians arriving in Chicago, because we trust the secure vetting process the U.S. government, the federal government has put in place.”

Rauner temporarily suspended accepting Syrian refugees on Monday – even though governors have no power when it comes to immigration — pending, he said, “a full review of our country’s acceptance and security processes by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

A spokesman for the Jewish Federation of Chicago, the agency that administers the Illinois Refugee Social Services Consortium, a network of nine non-profits who contract with the federal government to provide services, said Tuesday nothing has changed.

About 30 other governors, Republican congressional leaders and most of the GOP 2016 presidential contenders echoed Rauner’s concerns about whether the screenings are sufficient to filter out would-be Islamic State terrorists.


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New House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., both called for at least a temporary “pause” in bringing in Syrian refugees, skeptical that the extra scrutiny the Syrians are subjected to is enough.

The reactions of Illinois members of Congress to the Syrian refugee issue mirrored the national debate, breaking largely along partisan lines.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a national leader in immigration reform, delivered a speech slamming Rauner and others from the House floor, likening turning away the Syrians to the U.S. not allowing in Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in World War II.

“The Governor of Illinois, my home state, could not resist saying our state was closed to Syrians fleeing the terror of ISIS and the Assad regime,” Gutierrez said.

“…This is despicable and cowardly and precisely the kind of reaction ISIS wanted. ISIS could not have written a better script,” he said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, gave a floor speech aimed at Rauner, though not by name.  The “vetting process must continue, and when it comes to suspicious circumstances, must be doubled in its intensity to make certain that our nation is safe. But those who are focusing on that as the answer to what happened in Paris are very shortsighted.”

The eight Illinois Republican House members all called for a time-out in taking in Syrians. Rep. Bob Dold R-Ill., said in a statement, “The Administration’s failure to put in place procedures that can identify terrorists seeking to impersonate Syrian refugees not only risks the safety and security of American citizens but also imperils the real refugees who are fleeing the exact same terror we are fighting.

“Therefore, I believe we must stem the flow of Syrian refugees into the country until we can guarantee, with absolute certainty, that the Syrians and Iraqis coming into the United States are legitimate refugees and not dangerous impersonators,” Dold said.

The Obama White House went on the offensive on Tuesday in briefing reporters, governors and Congress on the details of the extensive screening all refugees are subjected to, with extra scrutiny on the Syrians.

The process takes from 18 to 24 months for all refugees, no matter the nation of origin, White House officials said.

Half of the Syrian refugees brought to the U.S. have been children; a quarter are adults over 60. By design, only about two percent are single males of combat age.

A variety of federal agencies work together on screening refugees: the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State and the Department of Defense.

All applicants are subject to an in-person interview by specially trained DHS Citizenship and Immigration Services officers. Most of the Syrians are interviewed in Amman, Jordan or Istanbul Turkey with some in Cairo, Egypt.

The White House said late Tuesday night 34 governors were on the Syrian refugee call. Rauner was not one of them; two Rauner staffers were on the call.

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