Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Republicans cautious in responding to new immigration restrictions

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, listens to a reporter's question after a Senate Foreign Relations committee business meeting on the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State on Monday, Jan. 23 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, listens to a reporter's question after a Senate Foreign Relations committee business meeting on the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State on Monday, Jan. 23 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — Leading Florida Republicans cautiously responded to President Donald Trump's immigration restrictions, agreeing largely that more screening is required while expressing discomfort with the scope of the actions that have triggered worldwide outcry.

Democrats swiftly decried the restrictions, which are directed at seven majority-Muslim countries, and warned of consequences.

"President Trump's executive order targeting and banning legal permanent residents and refugees from war-torn areas is illegal, immoral and un-American," said Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa. "It has made us less safe. If the president wants to empower jihadists, this is the way to do it."

But Republicans were slower and more varied in their reactions, or remained silent. The response underscores the challenge Trump's policies have created for a party that still harbors reservations about him but espouses a tougher response to terrorism.

LAWMAKERS REACT: How Florida's congressional delegation responded to Trump's immigration restrictions.

It took Sen. Marco Rubio two days to respond to Trump's Friday afternoon order. He said he supported "additional vetting for many of those entering our country from nations where the United States has identified there are serious concerns regarding terrorist activities and planning."

But Rubio added there are "unanswered questions and concerns," including whether changes to a visa waiver program could affect the state economy. He avoided mentioning the word Muslim but said he is "committed to the defense of religious liberty and our tradition of providing refuge to those fleeing persecution."

Months ago, Rubio was more direct in criticizing Trump's proposal and said Muslims were allies in fighting extremism both abroad and at home.

"I believe or I would hope that we would have the opportunity to encourage him, if he's elected president, in a different direction about how to deal with the problem he's trying to deal with, is radical Islamic terror," Rubio said in June on Face the Nation.

Saying he would be a check on Trump's power, Rubio pledged to work to undue the proposal, something the statement Sunday did not mention.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who like Rubio ran for president against Trump, also previously criticized Trump's proposal. But Bush did not comment over the weekend or respond to a request on Monday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, a major Trump supporter, said Monday that she did not agree with a ban on "all Muslims," adding "I support a temporary ban on those seven certain countries so we can properly vet immigrants to allow true refugees into our great country while preventing potential terrorist organizations from entering."

Gov. Rick Scott, another Trump backer, disputed the characterization of a Muslim ban. "We have Muslims that love our state and Muslims that love our country and then we have radical Islam. ... Our immigration system is a mess. We all care about public safety and so we all need to work together to figure out how to improve our immigration system." Scott in 2015 called on Congress to block Syrian refugees.

Members of Congress offered a range of reactions — or waited until asked by reporters, as in the case of Tampa Bay Rep. Gus Bilirakis, who weighed in Monday evening, saying he supported restrictions but not the detention of green card holders.

Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Panama City, said: "It's common sense to set a temporary pause on immigration from countries that are bases of Islamic terrorism and recruitment. These countries were identified by the Obama Administration because of their links to terrorist recruitment activities, not any faith."

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Hutchinson Island, said: "Implementing a short-term ban on visas and refugee admissions to ensure our vetting procedures are keeping U.S. citizens safe is a reasonable approach. At the same time we must never forget that we are a nation of immigrants and a safe-harbor for those fleeing oppression."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, issued one of the most critical statements among Republicans.

"I object to the suspension of visas from the seven named countries because we could have accomplished our objective of keeping our homeland safe by immediate implementation of more thorough screening procedures," she said. "The new administration needs to pay careful attention to crafting orders that honor existing legal commitments and existing law, in contrast to this broad brush approach which doesn't focus on the precise problems."

Fellow Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said he expected the executive orders are temporary "and that after the administration strengthens the vetting process, we can continue our tradition of welcoming those who are persecuted in an orderly manner and without any kind of religious test."

Democrats were even more critical.

"Our top priority is guaranteeing the safety and security of the American people, and I believe we need a thorough and comprehensive vetting process for all people seeking asylum or refuge," said Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton.

"However, the president's decision — to slam the door on all refugees for four months and Muslim refugees indefinitely, and to cut by more than half the number of refugees seeking safe haven this year — will leave thousands of vulnerable families and children around the world in limbo, leaving them to suffer horrific atrocities and persecution."

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson sought middle ground. "We have to do everything we can to protect ourselves from those who want to do us harm, but a hastily-issued policy that bans everyone from one of these seven countries from entering the U.S. — including the Iraqi interpreters who served alongside our troops in Iraq — is not the answer."

Times staff writer Michael Auslen contributed to this report. Contact Alex Leary at aleary@tampabay.com. Follow @learyreports.

Florida Republicans cautious in responding to new immigration restrictions 01/30/17 [Last modified: Monday, January 30, 2017 10:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena

    Blogs

    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack

    World

    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath

    K12

    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.