Syrian refugees settle in Chicago after extensive process

Sarah Schulte Image
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
EMBED <>More Videos

About 130 Syrian refugees are in Illinois, half of which are children. Most of the adult men are fathers.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In the wake of the Paris attacks, almost 30 U.S. governors are demanding a ban on Syrian refugees despite questions about a state's ability to do so and President Obama's calls for welcoming those fleeing the war-torn country.

In Illinois, only 130 Syrian refugees have settled here - half of them are children and most of the adult men are fathers.

Fatima Ibris, 40, and her family settled in the West Rogers Park neighborhood about nine months ago. Her father and brother were killed and she feared for her own life.

"We couldn't go out," she said. "When we go out, they'd kill us with guns."

Before arriving in the U.S., Ibris and her family completed an extensive background check by multiple agencies.

After three years in Lebanon, the United Nations determined Ibris and her family met the legal definition of a refugee and the family was chosen as good candidates to resettle in the U.S.

"They bring us here, they know everything about our life," Ibris said.

The resettlement process begins with a UN screening. Before refugees are allowed in the U.S, an individual must go through a rigorous multi-step security and screening process.

"Our process consists of doing intensive data gathering background checks that can be passed along to the State Department," said Galya Ruffer, of Northwestern University.

Ruffer said it could take as long as four years by the time a refugee is allowed to come to U.S. And yet, another check is done once the refugee arrives.

"The image in Europe of a single male migrating through isn't what our resettlement process. We are offering families who are legitimate refugees, a chance to resettle in the U.S.," Ruffer said.