Durbin Meets With Syrian and Iraqi Refugees, Expresses Opposition to Anti-Refugee Bill

CHICAGO - A day before the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on legislation that would effectively dismantle the Syrian and Iraqi refugee resettlement program, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) met with a small group of refugees who have settled in the Chicago area to hear their stories and express his opposition to the legislation. The American SAFE Act of 2015 would require the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI Director to each personally certify more than 100 refugee applicants a day to reach the administration’s stated goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees and 15,000 Iraqi refugees this fiscal year.

“In a politically motivated effort to stop the resettlement of fully-vetted refugee women, children and families from Syria and Iraq, the McCaul bill would effectively grind the U.S. refugee program to a halt and weaken our national security,” Durbin said. “Instead of targeting a few thousand refugees who are themselves fleeing from terrorism, Congress should focus its efforts on legitimate threats to our security, such as the unknown number of suspected terrorists who are able to legally purchase firearms and dangerous explosives under our gun laws.”

Refugees already face the most rigorous vetting of any travelers to the U.S., with in-person interviews and extensive biometric, biographic, and intelligence checks involving numerous agencies, including the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State and the Department of Defense. They are subjected to multiple and recurrent layers of review, taking an average of 18-24 months for approval.

In response to the worst refugee crisis since World War II, President Obama has called for the U.S. to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in Fiscal Year 2016, while Durbin and other Senators have urged the U.S. to take in as many as 100,000.

Durbin met with the following refugees: Othman Al Ani, who arrived in the U.S. in 2013 from Baghdad; Mariela Shaker, who arrived in 2013 from Syria; and Abdullah Taha and his wife, Outreya Al Shamaq, who arrived in the U.S. from Syria in September 2015 with their three children.