Durbin: Get Beyond the Screaming Rhetoric of the Presidential Campaign, Sit Down and Listen to the Stories of Syrian Refugees

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) spoke out against legislation that would unfairly block Iraqi and Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their home countries from finding safe haven in the United States, saying on the Senate Floor: “Let’s call it for what it is. It’s not designed to make us safer. It’s designed to stop Syrian refugees from coming to the United States.”


Each year, the United States accepts about 70,000 refugees from around the world—they are the most carefully investigated, reviewed, and vetted travelers to the country. That process takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months before a refugee from any part of the world is allowed to enter the United States.


In remarks calling attention to the “most serious humanitarian crisis of our time,” Durbin commended Suzanne and Zaher Sahloul, who have taken a leadership role in providing medical care and supportive services to Syrian refugees in Chicago. Durbin also shared stories of Syrian and Iraqi refugees and their families who have resettled in Chicago, and with whom he met yesterday.


“I made a point of meeting these Syrian refugees who made it here, and their families. I’ve invited my governor in my state of Illinois and my colleagues to do the same. Get beyond the screaming rhetoric of the presidential campaign and sit down and listen to their stories, and you will realize that these are people who are desperate, who are looking just for an opportunity to be safe. Yesterday a number of them came to my office,” Durbin said.


“Othman Al Ani from Iraq arrived in the U.S. in 2013. How long did it take him to clear the background check as a refugee? Four years. Four years. He now works as a caseworker for the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society.”


“I met Wadad Elaly and her mother, Mrs. Elaly. In 2012, Wadad’s father was killed by a sniper as he came home from work in Syria. The family moved out of the city for fear that they would be the next victim, went to Damascus, and then waited literally for over a year and a half to go through the clearance. Wadad is now a freshman in high school in the city of Chicago. She is a sweet, young girl who has seen more tragedy in her life than any of us would ever want to see. She and her mom want to make a life here, and she knows it’s up to her to get a good education to make sure she can make that happen.”


“Mariela Shaker, the incredible story of a young girl who was growing up in Syria whose parents were afraid that she was going to die from the bombing that was taking place. She applied and was accepted to go to a downstate college in Illinois, Monmouth College. She is a master violinist. She completed her degree there and is now at DePaul University working on a master’s degree in music. An amazing young woman. A terrorist, no. Just a young woman looking for safety and a future.”


“The stories go on and on.”


Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate Floor is available here.


Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate Floor is available here.


Footage of Durbin remarks on the Senate Floor is available for TV Stations using FTP in high definition here and in standard definition here.