Metro-East News

Area’s GOP congressmen urge ‘pause’ in admitting Syrian refugees

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro AP

Illinois’ Republican members of Congress have joined a nationwide call to urge President Barack Obama to temporarily stop letting Syrian refugees into the U.S., four days after 129 people were killed and scores more were injured in a coordinated terrorist attack in Paris.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, said he supports a halt to the influx of refugees in part because it could actually lead to greater radicalization in their home countries.

“There are some people who think that all the immigration of these Syrian refugees kind of depopulates the region and you maintain a radical element inside these countries,” Shimkus said. “There are some discussions that it’s in the best interest of those who want to rid the world of ISIS and to develop a moderate Arab position, not to drive the moderate Arabs out of their home countries.”

Shimkus said refugees who leave their homes for any of the dozens of Western countries who will accept them may find it difficult to go back. Instead, he said, creating a safe zone in the region with help from the United Nations could be a better solution.

‘Should not commit’

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said: “As we continue to pray for the people of Paris, we’re provided a sobering reminder that our own homeland is not immune from this type of evil. Until I am convinced that we have taken every single step necessary to keep our families safe, I will continue to oppose the admission of refugees into our cities.”

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said in a statement that “Our first priority must be protecting the American people here at home. We do that by leading abroad, by engaging with our allies in a comprehensive strategy to destroy ISIS. Unfortunately, this administration has failed on both accounts. Until we can properly vet Syrian refugees and prevent what happened in Paris from happening here, we cannot and should not commit to taking additional refugees.”

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, called Tuesday for a “pause” in a program that’s so far allowed 2,500 Syrians into the U.S. since a bloody civil war there broke out in 2011. Ryan said, in part, that the U.S. “has always been welcoming but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion” and that “it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.” He said legislation to amend the current refugee policy is in the works and could be ready this week.

Obama’s administration earlier this fall set the goal of admitting 10,000 refugees into the U.S. this year and so far has not backed down, claiming the screening process in place in the U.S. is much more robust than in Europe. Obama also has stood firm in his opposition to sending American ground troops to the Middle East, but Shimkus said the attacks in Paris have increased the odds that American soldiers eventually will engage in a fight against ISIS.

France so far has not asked NATO to begin a military mission in Iraq or Syria, but if they did, such a mission could usher in an American entry to the conflict.

“I would hope the (Obama administration) would be supportive of our treaty obligations to our allies and friends,” especially those who joined the U.S. in Afghanistan, Shimkus said.

Governors refuse refugees

Meanwhile, a bevy of state governors — 27 so far — announced Monday and Tuesday that they would not admit Syrian refugees into their states. Gov. Bruce Rauner was among the first to issue such a statement, saying Monday that “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."

Legal scholars and Obama administration officials have weighed in to remind governors that because the federal government is in charge of immigration and refugee policies, states don’t have the power to refuse refugees. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican vying for his party’s nomination for President, said Tuesday he doesn’t have the authority to refuse entry to refugees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.