Pro-Syrian refugee activists meet with Gov. Rauner's staff

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Suzanne Akhras (third from right), director of the Syrian Community Network, speaks at a news conference Wednesday, urging Gov. Bruce Rauner to reconsider his position on Syrian refugees. File Photo by Mitch Dudek.

Syrian refugee advocates who are urging Gov. Bruce Rauner to re-consider his stance on the issue met with members of the governor’s staff on Friday — but were told they need to shift their focus to Washington.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) met with Rauner’s senior staff on Friday morning. The group, as well as other refugee advocacy groups are trying to encourage Rauner to reconsider his decision to suspend resettlement of Syrian refugees in Illinois and to instead embrace the state’s long standing policy of “welcoming and acceptance,” the group said.

Suzanne Akhras Sahloul, director of the Syrian Community Network on Wednesday asked to meet with Rauner. She said she hoped to “change his mind.”

“I think it will touch his heart, and he will take back his statement.”

Not quite.

Rauner’s office on Friday confirmed the meeting, saying the governor still wants more information about the refugees before letting them into the state.

“The Administration explained to the groups that while Illinois wants to be a welcoming place for refugees, the federal government is still not sharing critical information requested by states,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said. “We hope they will advocate with federal representatives to encourage more information sharing from the federal government to the states.”

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Rauner on Monday suspended allowing Syrian refugees into the state — even though governors have no power when it comes to immigration. Rauner supported “a full review of our country’s acceptance and security processes by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure to toughen refugee screening standards on a 289-137 vote, with 47 Democrats voting for the GOP bill.

President Barack Obama has promised to veto the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act if it gets through the U.S. Senate.

It calls for no refugee fleeing wars in Iraq and Syria to get into the U.S. without certifications to Congress from the Homeland Security secretary, the FBI, and the Director of the National Intelligence that a person is “not a threat.”

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