CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Illinois joined a growing number of states Monday whose governors said they will not accept any refugees from Syria.
Governor Bruce Rauner issued the following statement regarding the refugees.
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.
With emotions so high, the issue of how to handle Syrian refugees arose even when Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered Chicago's condolences to France's top-ranking diplomat in the city.
Greeted by French Consul General Vincent Floreani, the mayor hand-delivered a bouquet of flowers with a small Chicago flag, placing it next to others at a memorial to the hundreds wounded and murdered. After expressing strong support for our sister city, Paris, one of the first questions from reporters dealt with Gov. Rauner's decision to seek to delay resettlement in Chicago of new Syrian refugees.
"Security and our values go hand in hand. The United States government is in a vetting process. But our values remind us that we are an open, welcoming society," Emanuel said.
The mayor said federal authorities could take 12 to 18 months to determine if new immigrants from war-torn Syria may be potential terrorists.
Chicago-based immigrant rights groups and advocates are blasting Gov. Rauner's decision to temporarily stop accepting new Syrian refugees in Illinois.
The Arab American Action Network says the decision creates a "fictitious link" between those fleeing war and violence and those responsible for the deadly attacks. The group says it also fuels racist stereotypes.
The Organized Communities Against Deportations wants Rauner to reconsider.
The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says Rauner's decision is "an impulsive reaction" that's "a political exploitation of a tragedy" versus effective security.
West Suburban resident Suzanne Sahloul is an immigrant from Syria 30 years ago.
"Refugees are the victims of a brutal, of a brutal conflict that has been going on for the last four years. It's like us blaming a rape victim," Sahloul said. "Terrible decision. Unfortunately, Gov. Rauner doesn't know any Syrian refugees. Before he speaks, he should really get to know some of the families we are serving."
Governors in Alabama and Michigan announced over the weekend they did not want any refugees from Syria, as well. And Monday, Texas suspended their program as well.
President Barack Obama on Monday said the U.S. needed to step up and do its part to help the refugees and slammed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other Republicans for suggesting that only Christian refugees be admitted to the United States.
“They are parents, they are children, they are orphans,” President Obama said on Monday. “It is very important … that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with terrorism.”
Illinois' U.S. Senate candidates are divided over whether the United States should accept refugees from the crisis in Syria.
Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said Monday no Syrian refugees should be allowed in the U.S. unless the Obama administration "can guarantee with 100 percent assurance" they aren't ISIS members or sympathizers.
Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth says "we should have greater confidence in our intelligence services" to root out terrorists.
She says she's called on President Barack Obama to accept up to 200,000 refugees — far more than the administration has said the U.S. will admit.
Democratic former prosecutor Andrea Zopp says banning Syrian refugees "makes no sense" and the solution is background checks.
Governor Mike Pence also said that the state of Indiana would not accept refugees from the war-torn country due to the terror attacks last Friday in Paris.
In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, effective immediately, I am directing all state agencies to suspend the resettlement of additional Syrian refugees in the state of Indiana pending assurances from the federal government that proper security measures have been achieved. Indiana has a long tradition of opening our arms and homes to refugees from around the world but, as governor, my first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of all Hoosiers. Unless and until the state of Indiana receives assurances that proper security measures are in place, this policy will remain in full force and effect.