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Illinois Among States No Longer Accepting Syrian Refugees

Illinois is one of 24 states closing its borders to Syrian refugees in wake of the terrorist attacks in France last Friday. It's unclear whether this move is legal under federal law.


In a statement, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced the state will "temporarily suspend" accepting Syrian refugees, citing safety and security concerns after the Islamic State group killed and injured hundreds of people in the Paris attacks.

But U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner says the agency's lawyers don't know yet if states can usurp federal immigration law and close its borders.

"We take their concerns seriously. We disagree that these people ... represent any kind of real threat,” Toner said.

Deb Hlavna, co-director of the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center in Urbana, says the governor’s move is a "knee-jerk reaction" to a threat that isn't there.

"They have to go through criminal background checks. You can count on it that it doesn't matter that the country's in chaos. Until you jump through all these hoops, they're not coming ... It's not like the people who are fleeing Syria right now are going to get here any time soon. It's years,” Hlavna said.

About 130 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Illinois this year. Many of the Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. will land at Chicago's O'Hare airport, and be resettled to other regions from there.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, also a Republican, says his state will not accept new Syrian refugees.

Copyright 2015 WNIJ Northern Public Radio

Hannah covers state government and politics for NPR Illinois and Illinois Public Radio. She previously covered the statehouse for The Daily Line and Law360, and also worked a temporary stint at the political blog Capitol Fax in 2018.