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Illinois Gov. Rauner Suspends Syrian Refugee Resettlement

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Joining several other GOP governors, Bruce Rauner on Monday moved to block Syrian refugees from entering the state.

Citing the Paris attacks, Rauner said "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, along with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and several other GOP governors have moved to suspend Syrian resettlement, at least for the short term.

As of midday on Monday, 10 Republican governors--from Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Texas, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Massachusetts--moved to block refugees from relocating to their states, at least for now.

According to published reports, one of the attackers in Paris was a refugee from Syria.

According to the U.S. State Department, 131 Syrian refugees settled in Illinois so far in 2015. Of those, 95 settled in the Chicago area, including 79 in Chicago and 16 in Aurora.

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."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel seemed to downplay the governor's declaration when he was asked about it while he was at at the French Consulate paying his and the city's condolences for the terrorist bloodbath last weekend in Paris.

"Security and our values go hand-in-hand," Emanuel said. "The United States government is in a vetting process but our values are one in which we remind ourselves that we are an open, welcoming society."

Suzanne Akhras, the founder of the Syrian Community Network, says she is "disappointed" by Rauner's decision.

"I'd like to ask him, what's his story?" Akhras said. "How did his parents or his grandparents come to the United States? What kind of conflict did they escape?"


Akhras says refugees from Syria who are here now have undergone a year and a half of questioning by U-S authorities.

"We should trust the system that we built," she said. "The U.S. has a very strong vetting process."

Akhras says there are about 16 Syrian refugee families in the Chicago area right now. That's about 70 people. And she says they started arriving about a year ago.

The United States in September pledged to take thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria in the next year.

An estimated 85,000 total refugees are expected to be resettled in the U.S. in 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sept. 20.

Speaking to reporters in Turkey, President Obama addressed the issue.

The president said the U.S. would continue to accept more refugees from Syria after security clearance.

"Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values," he said.

WBBM's Craig Dellimore reports some members of Congress from Illinois say they still support the U.S. taking in refugees from Syria. Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth says she stands by her call to resettle refugees, but she agrees there should be close screening.


"We should have greater confidence in our intelligence services," Duckworth said. "I certainly do. I want to make sure that we work with our intelligence community to make sure that we are able to identify who the terrorists are."

House Democrat Michael Quigley agrees.

"I don't know how to address how people react, different elected officials or people running for president, the fact of the matter is, this is an ongoing crisis taking place where hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake," Quigley. "Obviously, Europe is taking the brunt of this and we have greater capabilities in the United States for addressing the situation."

So he says we should.

Senator Mark Kirk's office has cited reports that federal officials feel there are gaps in the screening of Syrian refugees.

"The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director James Comey have cautioned that terrorist infiltration of Syrian refugees is possible based on our limited ability screen all Syrian refugees," Kirk said in a statement. "No refugee related to the Syrian crisis should be admitted to the United States unless the Administration can guarantee, with 100 percent assurance, that they are not members, supporters, or sympathizers of ISIS."

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