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Politics / Issues

Legislation to Remove Florida From Federal Refugee Program Advances

Rep. Kionne McGhee in 2015.
Rep. Kionne McGhee in 2015.

The Florida House is moving forward with a plan to pull out of the refugee resettlement program.

The sponsor, Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, said his legislation will increase the state’s security. But critics said refugees are already vetted, with extra screening for those from Syria. Kionne McGhee, D-Cutler Bay, said he disagrees on the purpose.

Rep. Kionne McGhee in 2015.
Credit Mark Foley via FL House website / Florida House of Representatives

“The bill does not force the federal government to do anything because we know the Supremacy Clause," he said."But what the bill does is it sends red meat to the base of a political party in order to justify future elections.”

Will Hanley teaches Middle Eastern History at Florida State University. He argued the bill discriminates against people based on birthplace.

“As far as the purview of this committee is concerned, it makes a lot more sense to direct your attention to the situation of children and families who are refugees in this state," he said. "Their situation is very difficult.”

Santiago said the bill will prevent terror attacks, but offered no evidence terrorists are using the refugee program to enter the state. Florida currently passes federal money for refugees in the state to local agencies.

If the bill gains approval, the money would go directly to the agencies for services. It won't stop refugees being resettled in Florida.

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