Governors Should Listen to Mayors on Syrian Refugees

November 16, 2015

State and city leaders are at odds on refugee immigration—another example of a growing gulf on civic priorities.

The deadly attacks in Paris may be shaping the debate over immigration in the U.S. Since Friday, a number of governors from across the U.S. have pledged to do what they can to stop Syrian immigrants from relocating within the borders of their states, despite the fact that Syrians are fleeing the same kind of violence that was visited upon Paris and Beirut last week.

Meanwhile, mayors from some of the largest U.S. cities are welcoming Syrian immigrants with open arms. It’s another example of the growing gulf between city and state leaders on civic priorities ranging from climate change to the minimum wage.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner declared Monday, for example, that Illinois will“temporarily suspend” immigration from Syria. “Our nation and our state have a shared history of providing safe haven for those displaced by conflict, but the news surrounding the Paris terror attacks reminds us of the all-too-real security threats facing America,” he said in a statement.

Yet Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed back against Governor Rauner’s claims that immigration represents a grave security threat. “My one word is, security and our values go hand in hand,” the mayor said during an appearance at the French Consulate. "The United States government is in the vetting process, but our values are one in which we remind ourselves that we are an open, welcoming society.”

Mayor Emanuel was one of 18 mayors to put his name to a September letter to President Barack Obama asking for even more Syrian immigrants to relocate to the city. All of the letter’s backers are members of the Cities United for Immigration Action coalition, which supports immigration as a positive good.

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