By GARY FINEOUT
TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Rick Scott on Monday joined with a growing number of Republican governors who are critical of efforts by the Obama administration to relocate Syrian refugees to the United States.
Scott wrote a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that asked them to take “immediate and aggressive action” to prevent the relocation of 425 Syrian refugees to the state.
The governor wrote that the relocation should not be allowed in Florida or anywhere in the U.S. “without an extensive evaluation of the risk these individuals may pose to our national security.”
Scott’s letter came three days after the terrorist attacks in Paris and he joins other GOP governors who have criticized plans by the administration of President Barack Obama to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next 12 months.
Authorities have said a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers, and the Paris prosecutors’ office says fingerprints from the attacker match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.
Millions of Syrians have fled to neighboring Middle Eastern countries and Europe.
Scott pointed out in his letter that Florida does not have the authority to stop the federal government from relocating Syrians to the state.
But Scott said that he has ordered state officials to turn down any requests to help the refugees. He said that the Department of Children and Families has received requests to assist groups that are receiving federal funding to assist with the relocation of Syrian refugees.
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, blasted Scott and said he was letting “fear take control.” Simon maintained the current process to screen refugees was rigorous.
“By claiming in the wake of the tragedy in Paris that this vetting process is suddenly insufficient for Florida, Gov. Scott is punishing refugees for the horrible attacks perpetrated by the kinds of terrorists they are trying to escape,” Simon said in a statement.
Some legislators want Scott to assert the state’s authority. Sen. Don Gaetz, along with his son Rep. Matt Gaetz, wrote their own letter to Scott on Monday calling on him to follow the lead of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. Bentley said Sunday he would refuse to allow Syrian refugees to relocate to that state.
“Florida has a rich tradition of warmly welcoming refugees fleeing from oppression,” the Republicans wrote. “Florida has rightfully done its share as a haven for refugees. However, the current circumstance is far more different and far more dangerous than any other time when we have been asked to open our borders and communities.”