Jacksonville, FL - Florida Governor Rick Scott is joining the growing ranks of state leaders saying they will not support efforts to relocate Syrian refugees within their borders.
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Florida’s Congressional delegation, Scott says several organizations have requested- through the Florida Department of Children and Families- to relocate a possible 425 Syrian refugees in Florida.
“Following the terrorist attacks by ISIS in Paris that killed over 120 people and wounded more than 350, and the news that at least one of the terror attack suspects gained access to France by posing as a Syrian refugee, our state agency will not support the requests we have received,” the letter says.
Scott’s letter goes on to say that the federal government could still fund the relocations without State support, so he’s urging Congress to “take immediate and aggressive action” to prevent the use of federal tax dollars for the relocation efforts.
“As the federal elected body that exercises oversight and authorizes federal spending, please take any action available through the powers of the United States Congress to prevent federal allocations toward the relocation of Syrian refugees without extensive examination into how this would affect our homeland security,” the letter says.
Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas and other states have made similar declarations.
WOKV reached out to your Congressmen, and Northeast Florida Representative Ted Yoho says he supports the Governor’s stance.
“We are in a declared war on terrorism, we’ve been fighting that- and it’s an imminent threat,” Yoho says.
He says the process should be on hold until they’re sure every refugee is getting a full vetting.
“Just the thought that they could come over here, and one person puts people in fear that something bad is going to happen- that’s the creation of terror, so the terrorists win in those situations,” he says.
Yoho instead favors a safe-zone in Syria or another nearby country, where the US and other nations partner to have a protected area refugees can be without having to risk the travel to other countries. He also would support going back and re-screening the refugees who are already here, and he expects Congress will act on some variation of these restrictions very soon.
The Florida Department of Children and Families confirms 104 Syrian refugees have settled in Florida in Fiscal Year 2015. Information on the DCF website says 48,816 total refugees arrived in FY 2015. Refugee services are entirely federally funded- but DCF says Florida’s refugee program is the largest in the nation.
While the exact breakdown of where Syrian refugees have been relocating to in Florida is not yet available, DCF says Northeast Florida is a “primary resettlement site for refugees that arrive through the conventional Department of State system”. Recently, that has meant Burmese, Bhutanese, Afghans, and Iraqis.
WOKV has reached out to local groups who have been involved in relocating refugees, and will update as more information is available.