MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said there is a “tremendous” likelihood that some of the Syrian, Iraqi and Afghanistan refugees who were resettled into Florida last year are terrorists who could launch attacks against Florida citizens.
Corcoran’s comments came during a Friday taping of CBS4’s Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede, which will air Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m.
Last month Corcoran wrote a letter to President Trump supporting the President’s Executive Order creating a temporary ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. (That order has since been blocked by a federal judge.) Corcoran also took the opportunity in his letter to Trump to express his concern about the refugee resettlement program. In the letter he said that in 2016 approximately 700 Syrians, 300 Iraqis and 200 Afghans posed a “legitimate” risk to the people of Florida.
On Friday, Corcoran was asked if he believed some of those refugees harbored terrorist views.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said.
Asked if he believed there were actual terrorists among the 1,200 refugees, Corcoran replied: “I believe that there is a tremendous potential likelihood there and it’s based on facts.”
Corcoran said law enforcement has no way of properly vetting these individuals. Supporters of the resettlement program said they do, in fact, go through extensive vetting and the application process can take years. Most of the refugees are women and children who are fleeing severe deprivation in those war-torn areas.
The following is the transcript of the interview with CBS4’s Jim DeFede.
DEFEDE: You recently wrote a letter to Donald Trump, after he passed the Executive Order on banning travel from – I don’t want to pull you into the debate that is going on in the court system, but you expressed concerns about the number of Syrian refugees and other refugees that are here in the State of Florida. You noted in your letter that in 2016, 700 Syrians, 300 Iraqis and 200 Afghans were resettled in Florida and I think part of what you wrote is that you said they posed the potential for a legitimate security risk due to terrorism. Do you have any evidence, any intelligence information, anything that says any of those refugees who come here, mostly escaping war zones, families and children and the rest of it, any of them are a true threat to Florida citizens and that they harbor terrorist views?
CORCORAN: Yeah, absolutely.
DEFEDE: So you are saying that within these 1,200 individuals you believe there are terrorists?
CORCORAN: I believe that there is a tremendous potential likelihood there and it’s based on facts. We had a whole committee, three hours long, Jim, and we had FDLE, our law enforcement arm come, and this is what they told us, and we’ve read it all the time with Comey and the FBI, they don’t know, they can’t properly vet these people. But what we do know is this – this is our FDLE guy – the federal people wouldn’t let us check their database and cross check it. The feds never even looked at our database to see if they are really related to some people in our area. But even beyond that what they have unequivocally stated is that ISIS has absolutely infiltrated the refugee program and they cannot determine that all the people coming in here are perfectly safe.
DEFEDE: But I want to be clear here, you are saying that of the 700 Syrians, 300 Iraqis, 200 Afghans – of those 1,200 people you believe there are actual terrorists among those 1,200 who are intent on doing some sort of harm at some point to the citizens in Florida.
CORCORAN: It is an absolute fact that ISIS has infiltrated the refugee program. That’s over a thousand refugees that come to our state alone, forget about the rest of the nation, and we know ISIS has infiltrated the refugee program. There is no way to know Jim that those 1,200 may or may not have been infiltrated by ISIS.
DEFEDE: But don’t you run the risk…
CORCORAN: And that’s our law enforcement.
DEFEDE: But don’t you run the risk now of demonizing all 1,200 because some in that group may… I still have not heard you say, do you have a list of names, do you have individuals that you believe fall into that category.
CORCORAN: They don’t have the list of names or individuals. They don’t know who they are related to.