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No known impact of Rauner opposition to refugees

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015

* The Tribune reports on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s seemingly empty opposition to resettling Syrian refugees in Illinois

States do not have the authority to turn away refugees, whose resettlement to the U.S. is overseen by the federal government. But Rauner was among a wave of mostly Republican governors who declared the program suspended in their states anyway, citing concerns about the government’s ability to adequately screen applicants. Rauner said he would “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.”

Left unclear was what exactly Rauner wanted from federal officials, and how his administration planned to suspend the program in Illinois. By the end of last week, even refugee advocates who opposed Rauner’s decision couldn’t point to any services that had been cut off as a result.

A set of email statements on Monday indicates the political fight is still going, even as it’s unclear what will be the practical effect, if any.

Emphasis added for obvious reasons.

Refugee advocates caved in Indiana when that state’s governor demanded that they not resettle refugees, but no such order has so far been issued by Gov. Rauner that we know of.

In a way, that’s a hopeful sign because the governor is apparently all about the politics here. On the other hand, he’s helping to needlessly gin up paranoia and angst about the refugees, so that’s all on him.

Pick a lane, dude.

* From US Sen. Dick Durbin…

The Honorable Bruce Rauner
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706

Dear Governor Rauner:

I urge you to end your opposition to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Illinois and instead join me in working to close loopholes in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and federal gun laws that truly endanger the safety of Illinoisans.

The conflict in Syria is the epicenter of the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. More than half of Syria’s 23 million people have been forced from their homes, and more than four million are registered as refugees, including approximately two million Syrian children. This tragedy was seared in our memory by the heartbreaking image of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean.

The United States has a long tradition of providing safe haven to refugees, and Illinois has played an important role in this proud history. Since the international community’s tragic failure to shelter Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi genocide, the American people have welcomed millions of refugees fleeing war and totalitarian regimes. We should not abandon the good work of generations of Americans who came before us.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson sent you the attached letter responding to your concerns about the security vetting of Syrian refugees. The facts are clear. Refugees are the most carefully vetted of all travelers to the United States, with in-person interviews and extensive biometric, biographic, and intelligence checks involving numerous agencies, including the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State and the Department of Defense. No refugees are admitted to the United States until after successful completion of this stringent security screening regime, which can take 18-24 months. Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the United States has admitted more than 2,000 Syrian refugees. None have been charged with involvement in terrorism, and only two percent are single men of military age.

Please during this holiday season take the time to meet the Syrian refugees living in Illinois and personally learn their plights. You will learn that the careless and mean-spirited rhetoric from many political leaders does not reflect the reality of their sad lives.

Our shared highest priority is the safety of the people of Illinois, but let’s be clear about where the greatest terrorism threat lies: not with children and families fleeing ISIS, but in glaring loopholes in the law that could allow what happened in Paris to happen somewhere in America. One significant concern is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows about 20 million foreign nationals, more than one-third of all foreign visitors, to travel to the United States before checking biometrics like fingerprints. Chicago, which hosts about 1.4 million foreign visitors every year and is home to the busiest airport in the world, is at particular risk. Every participant in the Paris attacks who has been publicly identified held a passport from a VWP country. Terrorists such as Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber,” and Zacarias Moussaoui, a 9/11 co-conspirator, have sought to enter the United States through the VWP.

Only biographic (name-based) checks are conducted before VWP travelers are allowed to board airplanes and travel to the United States. Prior to departure, there are no checks against databases that use biometrics such as fingerprints. Fingerprint checks are conducted upon arrival in the United States, which is too late for a terrorist who might try to detonate an explosive on a plane. As U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said:

    “I would tell you, from a threat standpoint, I’m probably more concerned with the visa waiver program today. Were I in Europe already, and I wanted to go the United States, and were I not on a watch list or a no-fly list and I wanted to get there, the likelihood is I would use the visa waiver program before I would try to pawn myself off as a refugee.”

Vulnerabilities in the VWP are aggravated by a loophole in federal law that permits VWP travelers to buy firearms. Current law prohibits visa holders from other countries from purchasing guns, but excludes travelers from the 38 VWP countries. In 1998, I authored a federal law that prohibits visiting foreign nationals from buying or possessing a firearm in the United States if the foreigner “has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa.” In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel determined that under the statute VWP travelers can legally purchase firearms because they have not technically “been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa.”

Last week, I introduced S. 2323, the Visa Waiver Program Firearms Clarification Act, legislation that would close this loophole and clarify that the prohibition on buying firearms applies to foreign visitors whether they enter with a visa or not.

Congress also must address another critical gap in our gun laws. Current federal law prohibits nine categories of dangerous people from possessing firearms (e.g., felons, the mentally unstable, fugitives, etc.) but not suspected terrorists. The Government Accountability Office found that from 2004-2014, people who were on the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist tried to buy guns from American gun dealers at least 2,233 times. In 2,043 of those cases – 91 percent of the time – these suspected terrorists were able to successfully buy the gun. I am an original cosponsor of S. 551, the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015, which would close this “terror gap” in our federal gun laws.

In conclusion, I respectfully request that you support the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Illinois and encourage your Republican allies in Congress to work with Democrats to address the critical gaps in our security infrastructure outlined above. Rather than targeting a few thousand refugees who are themselves fleeing from terrorism and are the most thoroughly vetted travelers to the United States, you should focus on 20 million VWP travelers who travel to our country and our state every year without adequate security checks, as well as an unknown number of suspected terrorists who are able to legally purchase firearms and dangerous explosives.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Emphasis added.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 9:37 am:

    So, was the governor’s order like double-secret probation?

    If the governor is sincerely looking for answers, it would seem he is obligated to meet with refugees and learn of the process they had to go through to get here first-hand.

    Plus, it’s just the decent thing to do, for crying out loud. The governor did a good thing the other day passing out turkeys. Welcoming some of the most oppressed people on Earth to Illinois would be a good thing, too.

    This remains just a very sad, cynical political exercise, such a betrayal of our values and how we view ourselves as a people. I could go on and on, but more deletions would surely follow.

  2. - Dome Gnome - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 9:39 am:

    Rauner could, say, deliver turkeys to Syrian refugees.

  3. - Dome Gnome - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 9:41 am:

    Wordslinger: jinx on the turkeys. Buy me a Coke!

  4. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 9:48 am:

    Robert, what do the Boston bombers have to do with Syrian refugees?

  5. - walker - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 9:51 am:

    Rauner confirmed his bona fides with the RGA.

    This refugee scare will go the way of the Ebola panic, unless something new occurs on our soil.

  6. - Huh? - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 9:59 am:

    “… that the careless and mean-spirited rhetoric from many political leaders does not reflect the reality of their sad lives.”

    I know that Senator Durbin is talking about the refugees. But the same could be said about the politicians grandstanding on this issue.

  7. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 10:07 am:

    So wait, this wasn’t about keeping Illinoisans safe from a possible terror attack? Am I supposed to believe that Governor Rauner issued his statement simply to score cheap political points using the greatest humanitarian crisis we’ve seen in years? He’s verbally kicking orphans and widows to score points with the RGA? Really?

    No policy impact what so ever. No effort to engage the ISP, or implement any state level security policy? No background checks of refugees already re-settled here in Illinois?

    Just a press release and a bunch of back-slapping in Las Vegas with the rest of the America First crowd at the RGA.

    Meanwhile, there are thousands of barefoot Syrian children sleeping on the ground tonight and Rauner and friends think that’s just fine.

    Happy Thanksgiving Governor Rauner, I hope you remember all of the things you have to be thankful for at this time of year. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

  8. - Ghost - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 10:09 am:

    We as a society seem to be falling back into racial divides and discrimination…. we have national figures blatantly using stereotypes and the verbage of discrimnation as if it was an intellectual proposition. demagoguery should be appalin not embraced with policy and supported with cheers.

  9. - Lonely Centrist - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 10:58 am:

    I am crying for what has happened to my beloved country, nearly all of it at the hands of my fellow countrymen.

  10. - Lincoln Lad - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 11:23 am:

    Where is Chris Christie when his party says thousands of people were tailgating and celebrating on 9/11 in Jersey City? He’ll tall a grade school teacher to shut up, but not Trump?

  11. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 11:24 am:

    If Durbin was running for reelection this year, he would be pandering right along with everyone else over this. He didn’t get to where he is by taking a courageous stand that hadn’t already been extensively researched as popular with voters.

  12. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 11:30 am:

    –Where is Chris Christie…?–

    Protecting New Jersey from scary 5-year-old orphans.

  13. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 11:32 am:

    Sorry, gadget problems, the above was me.

  14. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 11:38 am:

    Durbin: make your point and keep it short. Lost me after 3rd sentance

  15. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 11:42 am:

    Yes Dick, we’re going to cancel Thanksgiving dinner and go find some Syrian refugees to listen to their sorrow. Do we drive to Chicago? Where exactly? Will we see you there? Phoney

  16. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 3:26 pm:

    Has Senator Dick Durbin spent a few hours recently with Syrian refugees in Illinois?

    If the phonies on both sides of this issue (including Durbin) step back and let the adults figure it out, then everyone would be better off.

  17. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 3:52 pm:

    ===let the adults figure it out===

    Enlighten me Louis, who are the adults in this?

  18. - Huh? - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 4:35 pm:

    “Governor Rauner issued his statement simply to score cheap political points using the greatest humanitarian crisis we’ve seen in years? He’s verbally kicking orphans and widows to score points with the RGA? Really?”

    Isn’t this the gist of the turnaround agenda? By failing to propose a balanced budget and vetoing anything that doesn’t have his poison pills, isn’t he creating a humanitarian crisis?

  19. - Blue dog dem - Tuesday, Nov 24, 15 @ 5:01 pm:

    How can the RAUN Man be The Trumsters VP running mate if he doesn’t toe the company line?

  20. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Nov 25, 15 @ 7:51 am:

    In new links on the site, public radio quotes the governor as “pursuing legal options to keep Syrian refugees out of the state.”

    When asked what those legal options are, the governor changes the subject.

    Didn’t this guy have an eighth grade civics class? Federalism? The Constitution? What possible power does he believe he could have to prevent someone legally in this country from entering the state of Illinois? How would that be accomplished?

    Clueless or cynical? Those are the only two choices.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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