The 27 Republican governors who earlier this week opposed Syrian refugees settling in their states -- including Florida's Rick Scott -- are taking up a united front.
On Friday, they sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to suspend resettlement of refugees from Syria nationwide in light of attacks in France last week.
Other southern governors signed on the list, including Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Greg Abbot of Texas and Nathan Deal of Georgia. New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, the only Democrat to join the anti-refugee talk, did not join.
As growing numbers of governors including Florida's Rick Scott were expressing opposition to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their state, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump raised the ante in an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.
Trump charged that the Obama administration is deliberately trying to resettle Syrian refugees in states with Republican governors while sparing states that have Democratic governors.
"They send them to the Republicans, not to the Democrats, you know, because they know the problems," Trump said on Nov. 17, 2015. "In California, you have a Democrat as a governor (Jerry Brown). In Florida, you have Rick Scott (a Republican). So you know they send them to the Republicans because you know why would we want to bother the Democrats? It's just insane. Taking these people is absolutely insanity."
Is the administration sending refugees to Republican-led states but not Democratic ones? In a word, no.
Whether the United States should accept Syrian refugees has become an urgent debate in the days since the terror attacks in Paris. At least 30 governors have said they’re against letting refugees into their states because of fears that terrorists could hide among those seeking political asylum.
The unrest began in 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad, in the wake of the pro-democracy Arab Spring. Assad’s regime responded with violence, and the country spiraled into a civil war. But it isn’t just pro-Assad vs. anti-Assad groups. There are several sects fighting one another, one of which is the terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Some have questioned whether one of the ISIS terrorists who participated in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks was a Syrian refugee who resettled in Europe. That fact remains unconfirmed; authorities are still investigating. The six Paris attackers identified so far were French and Belgian nationals. Nonetheless, many American politicians are concerned that allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the United States would leave the country vulnerable.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez wants "additional assurances from federal authorities" about the screening process of Syrian refugees before they are "permitted to settle in our community," a spokesman said Friday.
The statement by communications chief Michael Hernández stops short of backing the White House in an increasingly heated fight over whether the United States faces a terrorism risk from the 10,000 Syrian refugees the Obama administration agreed to accept from the war-torn country.
Backers of President Barack Obama note the refugees are subject to a lengthy vetting process that's much more rigorous than what most of the more than 70 million international tourists undergo when visiting the United States each year. Critics of the Democratic president, including Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, say the country can't afford to risk a less-than-airtight screening process in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.
Scott recently ordered his social-services agency not to cooperate with federal authorities wanting to put Syrian refugees in the Sunshine State.
It's not clear what role a Miami-Dade mayor might have in the refugee process. Gimenez, a Republican facing reelection next year in heavily-Democratic Miami-Dade, has visited the Obama White House multiple times. His statement seems to leave open the possibility of Gimenez giving a thumbs up to welcoming Syrians after a briefing.
"Miami-Dade County is a welcoming community which is home to people from all over the world including many with refugee status," Hernández said. Gimenez "would appreciate additional assurances that the screening process is as good as advertised."
A political action committee for a major national labor union released a new Spanish-language television ad Thursday hitting several Republican presidential candidates, including the only two Hispanics seeking the job, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
The groups behind the ad are iAmerica Action and SEIU-COPE, the Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education. The union has endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.
The ad, which will air nationally on networks Univison and Telemundo, condemns Republicans' opposition to the actions President Barack Obama took using executive authority that protect some immigrants in the country illegally from deportation. The actions are known as DACA and DAPA; DAPA, which Obama pushed a year ago, has not been implemented due to an ongoing lawsuit.
"One year ago President Obama took historic action, standing up for all families striving to achieve the American Dream," said Rocio Saenz, executive vice president of SEIU International and president of iAmerica Action’s President. "Since then, we have reached one full year of consistent attacks against Latino and immigrant families. It's simply inexcusable."
The groups say they will spend six figures on the ad campaign, which include digital ads in English in Florida, Nevada, Colorado and Texas.
The spots quote Rubio, Cruz and Donald Trump -- and also picture Jeb Bush. All have said they would end DACA (and DAPA, if it ever moves forward). Bush has generally taken a more empathetic tone toward immigrants, and Rubio has indicated he might let the program stand for a while before canceling it, to give Congress some time to reform immigration laws. He says he would cancel it even if Congress doesn't act, however.
Here's the English-language script:
Rubio: We need to get rid of all these illegal executive orders the President has put in place.
Cruz: I think amnesty is wrong.
Rubio: DACA is going to end.
Trump: They have to go.
Voice over: These candidates may be different, but their messages are all the
same: No to DAPA, no to DACA, np to immigrant families.
Now it’s time for our community to say no.
We will not accept hate. We will not allow anti-immigrant attacks.
Decrying a federal government that “refuses to enforce our immigration laws,” a group of state lawmakers Tuesday unrolled a series of bills aimed at stemming the flow of undocumented immigrants to Florida.
Here’s what they propose:
* Prohibit so-called “sanctuary cities,” local governments that slow down or opt not to carry out orders from federal immigration officials to detain or deport suspected undocumented immigrants. State Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, said he believes Miami-Dade County to have a sanctuary policy. The legislation (HB 675) allows the attorney general to sue public officials and local governments that enact sanctuary policies, possibly fining them up to $5,000 per day.
* Ramp up criminal penalties against undocumented immigrants. A bill (HB 9, SB 118) would make it a first-degree felony — punishable by up to 30 years in state prison — for someone who has been ordered deported to be in the state of Florida. Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, said that he intends to change the legislation moving forward, however, to only target violent criminals who are undocumented immigrants. They would face harsher penalties for any crime they commit, and they would face a first-degree felony if they return to Florida.
* Change how welfare benefits are calculated for families that include an undocumented immigrant. Legislation (SB 750, HB 563) would count the entire salary — rather than just a part of it — of a low-income undocumented immigrant against his or her family’s benefits.
“All these bills we shouldn’t be doing,” said Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach. “We have other things to worry about or we should be worried about: health care or education, but because we have that federal government that isn’t doing what they should do, we have to act.”
The legislation is being sponsored by a collection of Republican representatives and senators who say they will together push through three bills: Bean, Metz, Hutson, and Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami.
Because immigration enforcement is the responsibility of the federal government, state lawmakers say there isn’t much they can do.
“I love the idea of a wall,” Bean said. “A wall would be a good start.”
But until there is greater enforcement on the border, they said, their legislation will allow Florida to take action against undocumented immigrants and state and local programs that are friendly toward them.
The enhanced criminal penalties bill has its first hearing Wednesday in a House committee.
ORLANDO -- Sen. Rand Paul used his Sunshine Summit speech to go after Marco Rubio on immigration, accusing the Floridian of teaming in "secret" with Chuck Schumer to block amendments to the 2013 legislation.
"Your senator in fact opposed me," Paul said of a border security amendment.
Paul repeated the charge during a news conference in which he signed paperwork to get on Florida's March 15 primary ballot.
"I have no idea what Senator Paul is talking about," Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said. "It would appear Senator Paul is trying to change the subject away from his dangerous isolationist agenda and proposals to cut defense spending."
ORLANDO - “Wow! Wow! God bless the state of Florida. Florida is alive and rockin’” Ted Cruz said as he walked onto the stage at Faith Assembly of God here.
The brash Texas senator capitalized on his trip to the state to hold rally after his appearance at the Sunshine Summit.
"America is crisis. America is receding from leadership in the world,” Cruz said, before saying grassroots activists were beginning to wake up.
Cruz, who walked out to Hail to the Chief, quickly turned to immigration, denouncing an “unholy alliance” between K Street and Wall Street, aided by establishment Republicans, for cheap labor. “None of them are losing their jobs to an illegal immigrant,” Cruz said.
Several hundred people attended the rally, underscoring how Florida is not a given for Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush.
Cruz outlined an immigration plan that begins with building "a wall that works" and tripling the number of Border Patrol agents. It would calls for "aerial surveillance and other technology" to "find and detain all illegal entrants." He vowed to end "sanctuary cities," leading the crowd to stand and chant, "Cruz, Cruz, Cruz."
"We all loved how Marco Rubio took apart Jeb Bush in the debate. Wasn’t it great? But what’s Rubio ever done? Anything? Other than his Gang of Eight Amnesty bill, can anyone think of anything Marco Rubio’s ever done? Anything at all besides amnesty?" says the narrator who then switches to praise Cruz. "When Chuck Schumer and Marco Rubio tried to push amnesty, it was Ted Cruz who stopped them."
We decided to research Cruz’s role in the death of Rubio’s bill, and we’ll explain the problems with labeling it as "amnesty."