Rauner administration won’t say if it’s cut off services to Syrian refugees


By Monique Garcia, Chicago Tribune

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration on Wednesday refused to say if it has cut off services to Syrian refugees following his announcement that Illinois would temporarily stop accepting those fleeing the war-torn country, even as other states have pulled the plug on resettlement services.

Rauner is among 31 mostly Republican governors across the nation seeking to turn away the refugees in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, which authorities have suggested was carried out by at least one attacker who entered Europe amid the recent influx of Syrian migrants.

While advocates question whether governors have the legal authority to deny entry once it is approved by the federal government, states can deny help they usually provide refugees, including health care, cash assistance and job training.


Rauner’s office refused to say whether Illinois has repealed any such services to Syrian refugees.

In Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence ordered all state agencies to stop providing assistance to Syrian refugees, and two families scheduled to arrive in Indianapolis this week were instead diverted to Connecticut.

It can take two or more years for U.S. officials to process Middle Eastern refugees’ applications for resettlement. Most applicants are referred to the U.S. and other countries that have agreed to accept them by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Each applicant undergoes medical exams, a security check and an in-person interview with immigration officers at the Department of Homeland Security. According to the State Department, 169 Syrian refugees have moved to Illinois since 2010, including 105 living in Chicago.

The majority — 131 — have moved in within the past year.

The Rauner administration did not respond to questions about what services may have been discontinued in Illinois. Instead, Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly issued a statement defending the freeze on Syrian refugees as “a reasonable and responsible step to take to ensure we maintain a balance between compassion for refugees and security for our citizens.”

“The governor has been very clear — we need to preserve our heritage as a state welcoming of refugees while addressing the all-too-real security concerns that continue to evolve every day,” Kelly said.


Kelly said the governor’s office continues to request briefings from federal officials on refugees being resettled in Illinois but that the federal government “has no official information-sharing mechanism to coordinate directly with governors on such individuals.”

“As California’s governor reportedly said to the White House chief of staff last night, the federal government must evolve with the threat and modernize their information-sharing with state governments,” Kelly said.  

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