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Lake Ray bill would require state background checks of Syrian refugees

Saying that states have the right to protect themselves from “acts of war,” state Rep. Lake Ray of Jacksonville has filed legislation that would compel Florida’s refugee resettlement organizations to allow state background checks on refugees being brought in from Syria and other troubled areas.

“It addresses the concerns the state has and many citizens have related to refugees being brought into the state, without having any solid background checks. The federal government is doing some checks, but in appearing before Congress, they have said they really can’t tell you there aren’t some issues here. And with the events that happened in California in December, a lot of people are very leery of that,” Ray said.

HB 1095 Relating to Prevention of Acts of War, cites Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution, according to Ray. That’s the provision allowing states to protect themselves from imminent danger.

“I think we all recognize there’s an imminent threat.”

“What it does is it says, very simply, that we have contracts with various agencies across the state. Those agencies have contracts with the federal government. They are being compensated to locate people here. They then look to the state for supporting resources. Since they’re using our resources, they have an obligation to provide information to us. The governor and I have talked, and he said when President (Barack) Obama and I talked, he wouldn’t tell us who they are bringing in, he wouldn’t tell us how they are checking them or where they are going. That’s no partnership in the interest of the state of Florida.”

Ray’s bill is the latest salvo at the state level voicing opposition to refugees from Syria or other Middle Eastern countries. Legally, the federal government’s authority overrides state objections to refugee resettlement.

Written By

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at

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