Dold, Schneider divided on Syrian refugees

 
 
Updated 11/2/2016 3:42 PM
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  • Republican Bob Dold, left, and Democrat Brad Schneider are candidates for Illinois' 10th District seat in the U.S. House.

    Republican Bob Dold, left, and Democrat Brad Schneider are candidates for Illinois' 10th District seat in the U.S. House.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Dold wants to temporarily stop Syrian refugees from entering the United States because of terrorism concerns, while Democratic challenger Brad Schneider said the U.S. shouldn't turn away people fleeing that war-torn nation.

Dold and Schneider are battling for Illinois' 10th District seat in Congress. Including parts of Cook and Lake counties, it stretches from Lake Michigan into the North and Northwest suburbs.

This is the third electoral showdown between Dold, of Kenilworth, and Schneider, of Deerfield. Dold lost the seat to Schneider in 2012 but won it in a 2014 rematch.

The candidates spoke about the Syrian refugee crisis and other issues during a joint Daily Herald interview ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

More than 4.5 million Syrians have fled the country because of a civil war raging since 2011, according to the human rights group Amnesty International. The conflict has resulted in an estimated 250,000 deaths.

Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, while some have fled to Europe and elsewhere, including to the U.S.

The refugees became a political issue last November after deadly attacks by the Islamic State group in Paris. Some lawmakers fear terrorists will try to sneak into the U.S. by posing as refugees, and there have been moves to boost screening of Syrian refugees trying to enter the U.S. or to stop them altogether.

While calling the U.S. a "beacon of hope" for people being persecuted around the world, Dold said the U.S. must "hit the pause button" on Syrian immigration because of concerns of infiltration by Islamic extremists.

"I do believe that we have an obligation to make sure that we're protecting the citizens of our country," Dold said.

Syrian refugees only should be allowed into the U.S. once intelligence agencies can confirm they aren't threats, he said.

Dold acknowledged poor personal documentation makes vetting refugees difficult. He supported the U.S. funding of "safe zones" in the Middle East for refugees fleeing Syria.

Schneider said he and Dold have fundamentally different philosophies when it comes to Syrian refugees.

Although he said the government's chief responsibility is to keep American citizens safe here and abroad, Schneider does not want to stop Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.

The U.S. can't turn its back on refugees, "whether they be from Syria or anywhere else," he said.

"(This is) the greatest refugee crisis in our generation," Schneider said.

Schneider said the vetting process for refugees is "very intensive" and takes at least 18 months. People aren't allowed into the U.S. if they can't pass that process, he said.

Even so, Schneider called the Islamic State the greatest terrorist threat in the world, and he admitted the screening process should be strengthened.

Addressing Dold's point about paperwork, Schneider said poorly documented people are also fleeing Yemen, Nigeria and many other countries.

Schneider also noted Dold previously has said Christian refugees from Syria should be allowed entry into the U.S. Schneider criticized that approach.

"I don't care what religion someone is," he said.

Dold isn't the only federal lawmaker calling for a moratorium on Syrian refugees' entry into the United States or Illinois. U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park has, too, as have congressmen Peter Roskam of Wheaton and Randy Hultgren of Plano. All are Republicans.

Prominent Democrats on the other side of the issue include President Obama, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Springfield, Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates and Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston.

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