Dems demand Corcoran cancel speaker with 'anti-immigration' ties
Democrats have demanded the Florida House cancel a presentation by the leader of a think tank deemed by a group the Southern Poverty Law Center calls "anti-immigration" and affiliated with white nationalism.
Late Wednesday, Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa, sent a letter to House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, calling for the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee to rescind its invitation to Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He is set to speak as part of a panel on "security issues related to refugee resettlement" at the subcommittee's 9 a.m. meeting Thursday.
"It has been brought to our attention that Mr. Krikorian and his organization have a long history of inflammatory racial rhetoric which is offensive not just to the members of the Democratic Caucus but all Floridians," Cruz wrote in the letter. "I do not believe that it is the job of the Florida taxpayer to provide Mr. Krikorian with a platform for his hateful views. While we by no means seek to deny Mr. Krikorian the right to participate in public testimony, an official invitation from the Florida House of Representatives and this subcommittee implies a sense of legitimacy to the assertions put forward by him and his organization."
Corcoran's office did not immediately return requests for comment.
Since 1995, Krikorian has run the Center for Immigration Studies, whose website says the group backs "low-immigration, pro-immigrant" policies, has been called out repeatedly by the SPLC, which tracks hate groups.
CIS was founded in 1985 by John Tanton, a white nationalist who created the center to write studies in support of his anti-immigration advocacy group Federation for American Immigration Reform, according to the SPLC. It also has a record of sharing and posting online articles from white nationalist sources, including VDARE.com.
In a 2013 Washington Post profile of Krikorian, he calls white nationalism "pernicious" and an "evil thing" but said it is caused by high levels of immigration. In the past, he has spoken on panels in congressional hearings.
Thursday's hearing in the House is entirely refugee-centric, with speakers lined up from the Department of Children and Families' refugee unit and Lutheran Services Florida, which provides services to people relocated in the state. Alongside Krikorian, the director of Florida State University's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights and a special agent from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are scheduled to speak.
The House meeting comes after Gov. Rick Scott last year requested that then-President Obama stop relocating Syrian refugees in Flroida and following calls by President Trump to curtail refugees from Islamic countries or from parts of the world with high instances of terrorism.
On Tuesday, state Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, filed a bill that would withdraw the state from the federal refugee program.