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Richard Corcoran wants to meet with Trump administration on refugee resettlement in Florida

in 2017/Top Headlines by

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is applauding President Donald Trump‘s executive order temporarily banning refugees from entering the United States.

The Land O’Lakes Republican also wants to work with the administration to improve the transparency of the process, particularly on resettling refugees in Florida.

In a letter sent Monday, Corcoran praised the president’s “bold action” on the issue, while complaining that the current relationship between the state and federal governments over refugees going to Florida, is “unacceptable and an abrogation of our duty to protect the safety of Florida residents.”

“Despite the state’s legitimate concern with security risks — a concern even more compelling in Florida given recent tragedies perpetrated by terrorists — there is no opportunity for Florida to institute more rigorous scrutiny of people coming to our state and receiving our services,” Corcoran wrote.

Trump’s executive order bars entry to refugees from anywhere in the world for 120 days and from Syria indefinitely. It also blocks entry from seven distinct countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. In the original order, green card holders from those seven nations would be banned from re-entering the U.S.

The action has spurred protests around both the country and the world, though administration officials say that the reaction from the media and Democrats have been “hysterical,” pointing out that only about 109 travelers were detained in the first 24 hours out of about 325,000 who typically enter the United States in a day.

In the past year, Corcoran says nearly 700 people from Syria, more than 300 people from Iraq, and almost 200 people from Afghanistan were brought to Florida as part of the refugee program.

However, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement received no information from the Department of Homeland Security or other federal agencies about those refugees, which severely hampered any effort to differentiate between genuine refugees “and persons who pose a threat to Floridians.”

In the fall of 2015, Gov. Rick Scott blasted the Obama administration’s plan to relocate up to 425 Syrian refugees to Florida, complaining about how federal officials would not give him or the FDLE the ability to do background checks on those refugees.

The issue was brought up last week at a committee meeting in the Florida House.

Mark Glass, an intelligence officer with the FDLE, told the members of the Florida House Subcommittee on Children, Families and Seniors that the vetting of refugees from places like Syria and Somalia is compromised because of the possibility of identity theft.

Glass complained that the agency was not allowed to see the screening questions or answers of refugees seeking resettlement.

“Knowing the nature of the questions and details and the responses provided could assist FDLE and other local public safety officials in being able to potentially connect the dots of inconsistencies in statements made by the applicant, especially if the applicant is stating they have family or friends in Florida,” he said.

That was the same committee hearing where the entire Democratic caucus walked out of at one point when Mark Krekorian from the Center for Immigration Studies testified via Skype.

“As you know, the federal government routinely entangles state governments in national policies and programs,” Corcoran said in the letter. “Once established, such programs are operated with minimal opportunities for input or control by state policymakers. We look forward to a robust re-examination of the relationships between states and the federal government under your leadership.”

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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