(CHICAGO, NOVEMBER 20, 2015) Today the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) met with senior staff of Governor Bruce Rauner and urged him to reverse his decision to suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Illinois. ICIRR was joined by US Representative Jan Schakowsky, Suzanne Akhras Sahloul of the Syrian Community Network, faith leaders, immigrant advocates and Syrian refugees who collectively called on the Governor to reconsider his stance in favor of unity and compassion for individuals fleeing persecution in Syria.
“Today we let the Governor’s staff know that refugees are just like you and I,” said Suzanne Akhras Sahloul of the Syrian Community Network. “We requested on the behalf of refugees that the Governor sit down with one of our families to gain understanding and get to know us.”
Leaders from all backgrounds, faiths and perspectives joined ICIRR today, to emphasize the importance of Illinois’ proud history as a state that is welcoming of refugees and immigrants.
Syrian refugee family resettled to Illinois in 2014
“We are made stronger and better by the refugees that come to the United States,” said US Representative Jan Schakowsky. “The State of Illinois has long been a welcoming place for refugees and for immigrants – we are a diverse state – and shame on you Governor Rauner for saying we will not take refugees.”
Following the terror attacks that occurred in France one week ago, Governor Bruce Rauner announced the state of Illinois would temporarily suspend acceptance of new Syrian refugees from resettling in the Illinois, and just yesterday the US House of Representatives passed a bill to further restrict acceptance of Syrian refugees from resettling in this country.
“We want our Muslim brothers and sisters to know that you are not alone, and we stand with you,” said Lawrence Benito, CEO, ICIRR. “To the members of congress that voted for the bill yesterday, we are asking the public to contact their congressmen to let them know that Illinois has a long history of welcoming immigrants and refugees.”
ICIRR is committed to showing compassion for refugees who are victims of persecution, and equally committed to the security of Illinois communities. During Friday’s meeting, ICIRR encouraged the Governor to become familiar with the rigorous screening process refugees must complete before settling in Illinois.
The Department of Homeland Security and other federal intelligence agencies have an elevated vetting process for Syrian refugees. They must complete background checks, finger printing, interviews, extensive screening and case file reviews to be considered for resettlement. The entire process can take more than two years to complete, and thus far only about 100 Syrian refugees have arrived in Illinois.
“Even in France, where the attacks occurred in Paris, they welcomed 30,000 refugees,” said, Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of CAIR Chicago. “But here in the US, as far removed as we are from this incident, we have members of the GOP and others who have turned against refugees and fed into the xenophobia and islamophobia that we see in the streets, in airports, and around the country.”
Syrian Refugees are fleeing persecution and life threatening conditions that have forced them to seek safety beyond their own borders. The tragedy that occurred in France is an opportunity for the US to demonstrate unity and resilience as a nation whose foundation is built on diversity and acceptance.
“We are a place where people of all faiths can come and be welcome, and can be part of our communities,” said Jane Ramsey, Director of Just Ventures and influential Jewish community leader. “It is a sad and unconscionable moment for a leader to send any other message that goes against our values as Americans and as people of faith. We urge Governor Rauner to send a message that Illinois and the United States is a place that welcomes all refugees.”
ICIRR and the diverse allies represented at today call to action are urging the Governor and all city, state, and nation leaders to reject the reactionary and fearful policies currently being considered. Immigrants who are accepted into the US are protected by the constitution and federal law, and Syrian refugees should be welcomed into the communities of Illinois with open arms.
Suzanne Akhras Sahloul, Syrian Community Network
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visit www.icirr.org.