John Gregory -- Illinois Radio Network

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) hopes Gov. Bruce Rauner will change his position on Syrian refugees if he meets them face to face.

In a letter to Rauner, Durbin asks him to personally meet some of the hundreds of Syrian refugees who have already resettled in Illinois. Durbin feels if Rauner hears their stories for himself, he may break away from the dozens of governors saying refugees aren’t welcome in their states.

“I’ve met a number of them. These are poor people who are living in a war zone, whose children were being killed, who are trying to escape ISIS, the same terrorist group that we loathe,” Durbin said.

After the November 13 attacks on Paris, Rauner was among many governors to say their states would suspend efforts on resettling refugees from Syria. The Refugee Act of 1980 doesn’t mention anything about governors being able to block refugees from coming into their states.

Durbin is also asking for Rauner to put his support behind other efforts Durbin believes will address more pressing gaps in national security, such as the Visa Waiver Program, and the ability for suspected terrorists to obtain firearms.

“How in the world can we justify the fact that if a person’s name appears on a terrorist suspect list in America, they can still go out and buy a gun and explosives?” Durbin said. “That’s ridiculous. Let’s close that loophole.”

Rauner’s office didn’t directly address Durbin’s letter, but says it’s pressed White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough for more information about the vetting process for refugees.

“The Governor affirmed his commitment to be a partner with the federal government on the resettlement of refugees and noted a growing frustration over the federal government’s refusal to address specific security concerns and requests for information,” said Rauner communications chief Lance Trover in a statement. “Mr. McDonough offered to have Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas call the Governor to address his specific concerns. Governor Rauner and Deputy Secretary Mayorkas late Friday spoke by phone in follow-up to the Governor’s discussion with the White House Chief of Staff.”

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