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Jacksonville Lawmaker Files Bill To Slow Syrian Refugee Resettlement

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
Voice of America
Wikimedia Commons

Refugees hoping to resettle in Florida could have to submit to an extra round of background checks if one Jacksonville lawmaker has his way.

Rep. Lake Ray (R-Jacksonville) has filed a billrequiring resettlement organizations to report more about who’s coming in.

Several GOP-led states have vowed to clamp down on refugee resettlement after the recent attacks in Paris were organized by the self-proclaimed Islamic State. One of the Paris attackers may have entered Europe using a fake passport to obtain refugee status, but that’s not been proven.

Nonetheless, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and others reacted by saying Syrian refugees aren’t welcome. Although Florida can’t reject refugees outright, Ray  is hoping to use the U.S. Constitution to justify making it harder for them to land in the Sunshine State.

“Article I, Section 10 says that while states are not to engage [in] war, they have the right to protect ourselves from acts of war and that we can do that with an imminent threat to us, and I think we all can recognize that there is now an imminent threat,” Ray says.

Ray’s measure would require resettlement organizations, like Jacksonville’s Lutheran Social Services, to submit all information they have on a proposed refugee. The state would also conduct its own background check before the refugee could be resettled.

“Since they’re using our resources, they would have an obligation to provide information to us about who they’re bringing in, where they’re bringing them and the background information they have,” he says.

The U.S. government has never found a refugee to be responsible for a terror attack on American soil.  

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.