LOGAN SQUARE — The alderman of one of Chicago's most historically diverse wards has come out in defense of Syrian refugees — and against Gov. Bruce Rauner.
As Rauner and other mostly Republican governors from across the country attempted to close their state's doors to Syrian refugees after the ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) wanted to make it clear where he stood on the issue. The first-term alderman penned a letter addressed to President Barack Obama on Monday making it clear that Rauner did not speak for all Illinoisians.
Ramirez-Rosa noted that the governor lacks legal authority to close the state's doors to people seeking safety.
"In the face of hatred and fear, my community chooses love," the letter states. "Our neighborhoods will not close their doors to Syrian refugees. The 35th Ward of the City of Chicago welcomes Syrian families seeking safety, we welcome them with open hearts and open minds."
Ramirez-Rosa wasn't the only Chicago politician railing against Rauner's move. Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez called the rejection of refugees “despicable and cowardly and exactly the kind of reaction ISIS wanted."
In a statement, he compared the people turning against immigrants to those who wanted to turn away fleeing Jews during the Holocaust.
"When we sent Jews back to Germany and when we sent Japanese to internment camps, we regretted it and we will regret this as well," Gutiérrez said. "We have had candidates actually say that refugees seeking safety in the strongest nation in the world must first pass a test to prove they are from an ‘acceptable’ religion. In the United States of America, they said this. In the 21st century."
Chicago immigrants from all over the world also chimed in by starting a petition calling on state and local elected officials to welcome Syrian refugees. More than 1,300 people had signed the petition as of Tuesday afternoon.
Even before the attacks in Paris, however, Syrian refugees had a hard time making Illinois home thanks to the state's budget woes. Organizations here that help immigrants learn English and adjust to American life have lost funding.
From the beginning of the year until Sept. 28, 71 refugees from Syria have been resettled in Chicago.
The full text of Ramirez-Rosa's letter is below:
November 16, 2015
The President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I represent 55,000 working people from the northwest side of Chicago as Alderman of the 35th Ward. The neighborhoods that I represent - Albany Park, Logan Square, Hermosa, Irving Park, and Avondale - have welcomed immigrants from across the globe for over 150 years.
Today, the Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, declared that Illinois would not welcome Syrian refugees. He’s wrong.
Governor Rauner lacks the legal authority to close Illinois’ doors to people seeking safety. Governor Rauner lacks the moral authority to close Illinois’ doors to refugees fleeing violence.
In the face of hatred and fear, my community chooses love. Our neighborhoods will not close their doors to Syrian refugees. The 35th Ward of the City of Chicago welcomes Syrian families seeking safety, we welcome them with open hearts and open minds.
Alderman, Thirty-Fifth Ward
City of Chicago
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