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Florida House Moves to End Participation In Federal Refugee Resettlement Program

| February 16, 2017

sudan refugees

Sudanese refugees in a cave. (Transformedia/IRIN)

State House members took the first step Thursday in seeking to withdraw Florida from a federal refugee-assistance program.

In a party-line vote, the House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee supported a measure (HB 427) by Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, that would direct the state refugee coordinator to provide notice by June 30 to the director of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement that Florida will no longer participate in the program effective Dec. 31.

Santiago acknowledged there is no “evidence” terrorists have used the refugee program to enter Florida and that the withdrawal wouldn’t halt the federal government from locating refugees in the state. However, he said his intention is to send a “message to the feds” to improve the refugee-vetting process and to keep terrorists from using the program.

“What we do have is evidence of what has occurred in other countries and other states where the refugee program has been infiltrated,” Santiago said. “We’re in an ever-changing, global threat. And our enemies are getting smarter and smarter and finding other ways to find weakness within our processes.”

House Democrats staged a walkout three weeks ago when the committee heard from a speaker with a history of inflammatory statements about minorities and immigrants during a discussion involving the refugee program.

This time, members of the minority party objected by calling the bill politically based and said it would leave the state without the ability to engage in future discussions about refugee resettlement.

“It’s almost as if we are being asked to accept the bogeyman’s argument that refugees in this state are the problem,” said Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami. “What the bill does is, it sends red meat to the base of a political party in order to justify future elections. It’s wrong.”

Florida is budgeted to receive $257.4 million in the current fiscal year from the federal government for the refugee services.

A House staff analysis estimated the state’s withdrawal would eliminate 41 federally funded full-time positions in the state Department of Children and Families.

The notice period is expected to give the federal government time to find non-profits to handle future resettlements in Florida.

Scott McCoy, with the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors hate groups, told the committee the “expensive, message bill” is counter-productive in that it simply removes the state from participating in the refugee process.

“It doesn’t stop refugees from being resettled here. It doesn’t stop refugees that are resettled in other states from coming here,” McCoy said. “What it does say is Florida is going to wash its hands and close its eyes. We’re going to get rid of the very agency of the state that interacts with and oversees and helps these families integrate.”

The measure, which must get through two additional committees, does not have a Senate version.

The U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Burma, Iraq, Somalia, Bhutan, Iran, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Eritrea in the past federal fiscal year, according to the staff analysis. Florida received 2,983 of those refugees, who were forced to flee their home countries to escape war and persecution and cleared interviews and background checks conducted by the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense.

Florida also received 55,150 refugees through the Cuban/Haitian entrant program in the past fiscal year.

Santiago’s measure continues the state’s efforts to separate itself from federal refugee programs.

Gov. Rick Scott, following a coordinated November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, wrote a letter to Congress asking to defund Syrian refugee placements without additional security checks.

Last month, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, asked President Donald Trump for better cooperation with Washington on the issue.

In a letter, Corcoran described refugee services as a “one-sided partnership” in which Florida and contractors have to follow federal directives.

–Jim Turner, news Service of Florida

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9 Responses for “Florida House Moves to End Participation In Federal Refugee Resettlement Program”

  1. Sherry says:

    More and More Fear Mongering! As FOX says ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

    Meanwhile. . . hold on to that Xenophobia and turn your back on the suffering of your fellow human beings. . . after all anyone who is not a devout Christian is a terrorist. . . isn’t that right? Er. . . I meant Alt Right!

  2. Ws says:

    Did I read that right? $257 million to resettle refigees. Wow. How about we take that $257 million for American citizens and take better care of our Vets, homeless etc. ugh how did things get so bad in 8 years under Obama?? Thank goodness we have a real President now.

  3. Sherry says:

    AND. . . EACH and every Tomahawk missile costs over 1.5 MILLION dollars!

    Sooooo, does that mean it’s better to spend millions upon million killing people instead of saving them? Oh, yeah. . . that’s right. . . in LALA Land, only the non-Christian, non-white terrorists get killed by our missiles!

  4. Dave says:

    How does it feel florida? What is it like to be represented as a less than human , fearfull, careless ,Cristian less state? I feel so sorry that your whole state has represenitives that make the citizens look like the devil himself

  5. John says:

    Sure dont want the refugee crisis that Europe is experiencing. Women being attacked and legal citizens being harassed….not here!

  6. Pogo says:

    John says:
    “Sure dont want the refugee crisis that Europe is experiencing. Women being attacked and legal citizens being harassed….not here!”

    Don’t worry John. We’ve just started repeating Europe’s mistakes. First they went for Hitler and Mussolini. Okay we got that done. Next they turned over Anne Frank and the rest to the proper authorities.

    Anne Frank was wrong.

    “…I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
    – Anne Frank

    She never met an American Republican.

  7. Traveling Rep says:

    A few things:

    1. If measures like this serve to prevent massacres like Charlie Hebdo, Nice, France, etc. It will have been well worth it.

    2. I still have not seen a good reason why other Middle East nations are not taking in these refugees

    3. For anyone to compare us gaurding our border in the interest of our citizens to the holocaust, really desensitizes the atrocities that occurred there. Funny, I never see this argument directed at the insane extremists perpetuating these attacks, or the ideology behind them.

  8. Sherry says:

    @traveling rep. . . DO your home work! How about stating some actual facts. . .

    This from the World Economic Forum which says that the “Middle East nations” of Turkey, Jordon and Lebanon DO TAKE IN the vast MAJORITY of Syrian refugees:

    Home to 1.6 million refugees, Turkey has hosted the largest number of immigrants so far this century. Lebanon and Jordan have also risen up the rankings, as the chart below shows, as the current human rights crisis unfolds in Syria.

    While other countries, such as the United States and Canada, have remained relatively consistent since the year 2000, nations located close to Syria have seen a rapid increase in refugees since 2012.

    I personally travel extensively in Europe every year and feel quite save there. Demonizing ALL Muslims as “Terrorists” is the exact same thing as labeling ALL Christians the same as the KKK!

  9. Traveling Rep says:

    Sherry, I’ve done my homework. You mentioned a sum total of 3 countries (Turkey is nothing more than a stepping stone to Europe for many)…what about the rest of the arab/muslim world??? Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Dubai, Morocco (sp?), Indonesia, etc. The reality is that these refugees would assimilate easier in these countries.

    You do NOTHING to explain away the massacres I mentioned or the penchant for *SOME* of these radical islamists to commit them. Mind you, some!, not all.

    Again, to reiterate, I never said ALL muslims are bad, but I can assure you that many of the Europeans you’ve visited have personally felt the unnecessary loss of loved ones due to people that have needlessly taken innocent people’s lives in the name of their religion. You know, the same one that condones stoning women to death and throwing gay people off of buildings…

    Deflect and spin all you want, but facts are stubborn things!

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