Housing Syrian Refugees A Divisive Issue In South Florida

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Syrian families have been risking it all to escape the violence at home, with many hoping to reach the United States.

But some Americans want to shut the doors on those fleeing from Syria after news broke that one of the terrorist responsible for the Paris attacks may have infiltrated the ranks of refugees.

“We need to stop what we’re doing. We need learn what happened over there [Paris]. I’m sure France thought they had vetted everybody well,” Gov. Rick Scott said during an interview on CNN. “We know one of those in France, one of the terrorists, posed as a Syrian refugee.”

Scott went on to mention he sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan asking for the federal government to stop accepting refugees from Syria.

“I’ve asked Speaker Ryan, Majority  Leader McConnell to don’t fund, don’t allow any federal dollars to go moving certain refugees to Florida until we pause and find out what happened and we make sure we’re safe,” he said.

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski spoke to CBS4 via Skype from the Bishop’s conference in Baltimore. He believes the vetting of refugees is very thorough, even before they come across the ocean, and the U.S. cannot close its doors to those in need.

“They are people who have been uprooted and people who have been forced to flee from their country because of the terrorists who wreaked havoc on Paris,” said Wenski.

Mike Khoury is Syrian American who has been in the U.S. for 30 years.

The insurance company owner said he’s tried to get visas for frightened members, but no luck.  He believes refugees should be welcomed, with proper vetting.

“I think it should be allowed,” he said. “People flee their homeland, they don’t choose to come. The situation for them to leave everything they work for their entire lives.”

The public is divided.

“I don’t think the actions of despicable human beings should influence our compassion for people who are victims of horrible war,” said Solimar Santos.

“You don’t know what you’re getting. You get nice people, but you also get the bottom of the pile,” said Yvette Fernandez.

Some of the groups that work with Syrian refugees said they were pretty surprised at how quickly this became a divisive issue. They said they were even more surprised when they started receiving hate mail for their support of relocating refugees to the United States.

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