Illinois Groups Will Continue Syrian Refugee Programs

Nov 20, 2015

Syrian refugee on bus in Turkey in 2012
Credit Voice of America News: Henry Ridgwell from the Turkish border by Aleppo

Human rights groups in Illinois say they'll continue programs for Syrian refugees. That’s despite the governor's calls to suspend accepting them - a threat he made on the heels of the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. 

As of 2010, Illinois has welcomed about 170 Syrian refugees. That's according to Sam Tuttle, policy director for Heartland Alliance. "We hope that the governor and his staff and the people of Illinois will learn more about the resettlement program and that we can all be welcoming refugees who have oftentimes witnessed some great horrors, so that they can start their lives again," Tuttle said.

Tuttle’s group and others called on the governor this week to reverse his threat to stop taking in new Syrian refugees. Tuttle says he doesn't have that authority - and the people coming from Syria are fleeing violence - not perpetrators of it: "Illinois should remain a compassionate voice for the people who are fleeing the very violence that led to the Paris attacks," she said.

Earlier this year, President Obama said the federal refugee resettlement program would allow 10,000 more migrants from Syria into the country in the fiscal year beginning last month. Last year, that number was only 2,000. On Thursday, President Obama spoke in support of Syrian refugees and said they'll continue to be accepted into the country despite disparaging rhetoric from politicians like Gov. Rauner. However, the House passed a measure that would limit his plans. It's not yet clear what changes in programming will mean for the state - but Tuttle says it's possible many more refugees could be coming to Illinois.