Gov. Rick Scott is the latest governor to move to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.
In a letter to U.S. House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Scott said the state “will not support the requests we have received” to relocate 425 Syrian refugees to Florida.
- READ MORE: The complete text of the letter
Scott said the state does not have the authority to block the federal government from funding the relocation of Syrian refugees, and so he is asking Congress to take “immediate and aggressive action” to prevent President Barack Obama and his administration from using federal tax dollars to fund the relocation of those refugees.
"You are basically punishing people who are going through an extensive vetting process to come to the United States and it’s usually families that have been living in camps for a while," said Jaber Nyrabeah with the Orlando chapter of the Syrian American Council. "They are doing exactly what ISIS wants which is putting fear into people’s hearts. ISIS wants the people to be scared of them and this is exactly what is happening."
Rasha Mubarak, Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), doesn't want such a small number of refused refugees to change the morale of America, saying they are trying to flee want is making their lives miserable.
"Why would we change this ethical morale in America for a small group of people, you know? These are victims," said Mubarak.
Scott added that refugees who are relocated should undergo "an extensive evaluation of the risk these individuals may pose to our national security."
Scott’s letter came after several other Republican governors moved to oppose the relocation of Syrian refugees in the U.S. following last week’s attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and more than 350 wounded. Those governors include Govs. Robert Bentley of Alabama, Greg Abbott of Texas, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Obama has said the recent attacks should not affect whether the country allows Syrian refugees to relocate to the United States.
"Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values," he said Monday at the G-20 economic summit in Antalya, Turkey.
- READ MORE: CAIR Florida condemns Gov. Scott's letter
“The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism," he said. "They are the most vulnerable as a result of civil war and strife. They are parents. They are children. They are orphans. And it is very important and I was glad to see that this was affirmed again and again by the G20 that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence."
Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell:
Please be aware that several organizations have requested that our state Department of Children and Families support the relocation of 425 possible Syrian refugees to Florida, as they receive federal funding to house these refugees in our state. 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.
More importantly, however, it is our understanding that the state does not have the authority to prevent the federal government from funding the relocation of these Syrian refugees to Florida even without state support. Therefore, we are asking the United States Congress to take immediate and aggressive action to prevent President Obama and his administration from using any federal tax dollars to fund the relocation of up to 425 Syrian refugees (the total possible number of refugees pending for state relocation support at this time) to Florida, or anywhere in the United States, without an extensive evaluation of the risk these individuals may pose to our national security.
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.
My office stands ready to provide any available information regarding this request for your immediate action.
CAIR Florida, the largest organization in Florida serving the Muslim American community, condemns Governor Rick Scott's divisive statement to not support the resettlement of Syrian refugees in our state.
In these moments of pain and escalated fear, we should be able to look to our elected officials to guide the healing process and refrain from harmful rhetoric. Governor Scott's un-American statement is in fact playing into terrorists' goal to turn the world against refugees who are fleeing their violence.
Such rhetoric only legitimizes the discriminatory actions of people against the Muslim-American community. Even before Governor Scott's statement, CAIR Florida saw an increase in hate incidents towards the Florida Muslim community in the aftermath of the tragic Paris attacks.
CAIR Florida welcomes any and all lawful immigration into the United States, especially by vulnerable Syrian refugees who are also victims of terrorism. We commend President Obama for being the leader our country needs by reiterating the federal government's support for accepting Syrian refugees. "Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values," he said. "Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both."
Currently, refugees entering the United States from Syria are subject to the most rigorous screening and security checks. The refugee resettlement process typically takes 18 to 24 months, and Syrians are subject to an additional level of screening not required of other refugees.
As members and partners of Refugee Resettlement Taskforce groups, we are very aware of the challenges facing refugee resettlement agencies in our state. Rather than isolating and stigmatizing refugee communities, we urge Governor Scott to meet with resettlement agencies to understand the programs and opportunities afforded to refugees from all over the world.