Advertisement
  1. News

Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic mayors diverge on acceptance of Syrian refugees

Gov. Rick Scott has opposed the relocation of Syrian refugees to Florida, but some big city mayors disagree with him. [Miami Herald] 
Gov. Rick Scott has opposed the relocation of Syrian refugees to Florida, but some big city mayors disagree with him. [Miami Herald] 
Published Nov. 19, 2015

The issue of accepting Syrian refugees has exposed a divide between Florida's Republican governor and Democratic big-city mayors, a partisan split featured in other states.

While Gov. Rick Scott opposes the relocation of 425 Syrian refugees to Florida, the Democratic mayors in Tampa and St. Petersburg welcome the arrivals.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said some local nonprofits have already resettled some Syrians in the area without incident. National security is a priority, he said, but rigorous screening should eliminate any potential threat.

"It's unfortunate that there are those who would choose to politicize this and demagogue an ethnicity and a country when the vast majority of the refugees who are coming are children," Buckhorn said.

Last year, 36 Syrian refugees settled in Hillsborough County, the most in Florida, according to the Department of Children and Families. Pinellas ranked third with 17.

"St. Petersburg is a city of opportunity with a growing international profile," St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said. "We welcome people with open arms here, and we're succeeding because of it."

Neither Scott nor the mayors can prevent refugees from coming to Florida or their cities, a lack of jurisdiction cited by Orlando's Democratic mayor, Buddy Dyer, in declining to comment.

On the Republican side, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said he supported Scott's position.

"We cannot allow those who would do us harm to use our principles and beliefs as a weakness to exploit, particularly when those who claim credit for the Paris attacks have promised attacks on United States soil," Curry wrote in a letter to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Clearwater's Republican Mayor George Cretekos said Scott is doing "what he thinks is best."

"I'm not saying open up and let whoever wants to come to Clearwater come to Clearwater because we can't be sure that's the right, safe decision," Cretekos said. "You wouldn't want a known terrorist to come into your hometown."

But he also said humanitarian efforts are needed, and officials must not discriminate.

"Let's say that somebody fleeing from Syria now has family in Florida," Cretekos said. "Are we going to say, 'Oh, no, you're in Syria, you can't come here, but you have family who are established residents'? That's why you have to do an individual basis."

Buckhorn took issue with those who want favorable treatment only for Christian Syrians.

"We're a nation of immigrants," Buckhorn said. "We always have been. We always will be, and to single out one particular group and break it down by perhaps allowing only Christian Syrians in really goes against the grain of everything we stand for as Americans."

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Pinellas County Commission chairwoman Karen Seel said a Tampa economic development group's recent decision to put "Tampa Bay" into its name "does great harm to the progress we have made on regional collaboration."
    But in Tampa, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit, government-supported economic development group is giving no sign of backing off the new name.
  2. This holiday season could be a record for travel. According to AAA, the Auto Club Group. Pictured is traffic on the Bayside Bridge in Clearwater in October. [Times file photo] [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    According to AAA, the Auto Club Group, more Americans are traveling this year than previous years.
  3. Dan Short, second from right, owner of Dan-lo Jewelers,  speaks with Hernando County Sheriff's detective Anthony Belmonte, far right, during a news conference Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 in Brooksville. The Sheriff's Office announced that a trio of jewelry store burglars were arrested after robbing between $16 million and $18 million from places around Florida. [ZACK SAMPSON  |  Times]
    The trio targeted jewelry stores, making off with as much as $18 million, authorities say. They were finally arrested in Chicago.
  4. Yankee pitcher CC Sabathia, who played 19 seasons before injuries ended his career this fall, greets children attending the Yankees holiday concert at the Straz Center in Tampa on Thursday. Sabathia was joined by his wife Amber, right. [New York Yankees]
    Long-time host and retired news anchor John Wilson passed the torch this year to a new emcee, his son Mark Wilson.
  5. This Feb. 19 photo shows a makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland. [AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File]
    The grand jury said districts are creating “unnecessary chaos” and have become “experts at data manipulation.”
  6. Council member Ed Montanari, left, was elected St. Petersburg City Council chair for 2020. Council member Gina Driscoll was voted vice-chair. [Times (2019)]
    The chair guides the council through meetings and generally speak last on issues.
  7. NewSouth Window Solutions has a factory and its headquarters near Tampa, seven factory showrooms around Florida and in Charleston, S.C., and an eighth scheduled to open early next year in the Pensacola-Mobile, Ala. market. [LensLife Productions]
    The buyer is PGT Innovations and wants to expand. NewSouth has a factory in Tampa and eight showrooms, with a ninth on the way.
  8. Methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia sit along side the stolen DeWalt power tool and phony store receipt as evidence is collected on the hood of the car after as two men are arrested at the Home Depot at 10151 Bloomingdale Ave, in Riverview, on Tuesday, June 26, 2019. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    A Times report shows Hillsborough deputies struggle to stomp out tool theft networks tied to drugs.
  9. St. Petersburg officials are looking for residents to volunteer on city boards and committees.
    Residents interested in volunteering on boards should email mayor@stpete.org.
  10. Assistant Attorney General Brian Benzkowski announces charges against ten former National Football League (NFL) players who are accused of defrauding an NFL health care program, at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. [CLIFF OWEN  |  AP]
    Former Jefferson High star and former Florida Gator, Donald “Reche” Caldwell is among two others who could be charged.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement