Illinois' U.S. Senators will be on opposite sides of today's debate over legislation which would make it much more difficult for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to enter the U.S.
The bill, known as the American SAFE Act of 2015, would require the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director to all personally certify that each refugee isn't a threat to national security before they're admitted.
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U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is vowing to vote against the bill, arguing it's both based on fear, and ignores the years-long screening process already required of refugees.
"We can't guarantee that a person we meet on the street today is not going to be a criminal tomorrow," Durbin said, "but these people are put to a standard which is higher and stricter than any other standard for people entering the United States."
Durbin met Tuesday with a group of Syrian and Iraqi refugees who have resettled in Illinois, who told him most refugees are finding jobs and taking English language classes once they've arrived in the U.S. One refugee was Mariela Shaker, who came from Syria in 2013 to study music performance at Monmouth College.
"This country has given me a lot, and....I can't wait to graduate and start giving back to this great community and wonderful people," Shaker said.
She's now studying for her master's degree at DePaul University.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) will likely vote for the legislation, having called for a halt to acceptance of Syrian refugees over security concerns after last year's attacks on Paris. Durbin knows Kirk and most of the Republican majority in the Senate will be "yes" votes.
"Sen. Kirk has said that publicly, and I've challenged some of the things he's said about the background checks for refugees coming into the United States," Durbin said. "I don't know what the prospects are. We haven't whipped as to a specific count on it. I'm going to be voting against the House measure."
Kirk's office didn't respond to a request for comment on this particular vote.
The bill passed with a veto-proof majority in the House, with 47 Democrats supporting it and 2 Republicans opposed.