On Thursday of last week, US Representative Gwen Graham and 46 other Democrats voted with Republicans to pass a bill which would require additional levels of certification for Syrian refugees.
The issue is pitting select Democrats against President Obama at the national level and having ramifications here in Tallahassee.
Politico reported that Democrats met with the White House staff but ultimately decided that the administration did not make the case that the bill was all that bad. See full Politico story here.
Here in Tallahassee, just before the vote, Mayor Andrew Gillum, responding to Governor Scott’s security and financial concerns, said Tallahassee would welcome Syrian refugees.
Gillum also said “the U.S. vetting process for refugees is extremely rigorous, extensive, and comprehensive, and allows us to aid those that pose no threat to our country.”
However, Graham disagreed.
Graham said “I do believe we have a role in helping peace-seeking refugees — but in light of new threats, we must strengthen our vetting process.”
A report in the Wall Street Journal documented areas where both parties were looking to enhance public safety given recent developments overseas. The report can be read here.
The House vote was immediately cast by some media outlets as a Republican versus Democrat ideological battle and there were questions raised about media bias.
For example, Elise Labott, a CNN reporter, was suspended after posting a tweet about the vote that said “House passes bill that could limit Syrian refugees. Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish.”
A Tampa Bay Times headline described the “strengthen vetting process” referred to by Graham as a “crackdown” on Syrian refugees.
This was followed by a live CNN appearance on Saturday morning by Mayor Andrew Gillum who defended President Obama’s position on the refugee vetting process and avoided any questions about the bipartisan vote in the House and concerns offered by other security officials.
Gillum’s position, as told to a local media outlet, is that “there are political leaders across this country who know better but are taking advantage of this moment to scare people..”
Important questions surrounding Mayor Gillum’s involvement with this issue remain unasked by the local media.
For example, why is this a City of Tallahassee issue?
When Mayor Gillum speaks on this issue, is he representing the City of Tallahassee?
Did Mayor Gillum seek guidance from the City Commission on this issue?
If not, are his actions a violation of the constraints placed on Mayoral duties detailed in the City Charter?
TR will continue to seek answers to these questions.