The lives of Floridians could be changed forever.

Thanks to the “vigilance” of Representative Lake Ray from Jacksonville, it has come to our attention that our way of life in the Sunshine State is at serious risk of being conquered or destroyed by foreign invaders.

As a precautionary measure, Rep. Ray is trying to pass the ridiculous “Prevention of Acts of War” bill that would secure our way of life based on Florida’s power to defend itself against the imminent threat of surreptitious invasion the state has been facing for the last 15 years.

How is this bill supposed to help us during a time of war?  Let’s get into it.

First let’s gain some clarity on just who our enemies are. Presumptively, “foreign refugees or immigrants”—or persons who are not United States citizens but seek entry in Florida—are potential suspects.  They may be “invaders” who are conspiring to “violently injure” Floridians’ way of life, “weaken or conquer” some part of Florida, or wage war against the United States.

In order to figure out which refugees and immigrants are invaders, the bill asks the Florida Governor to label some refugees as “restricted persons” if the refugee “originates from or has been in close proximity to, any location designated by the Governor in which . . . invaders or prospective invaders are known to originate, organize, or train for violent acts of war.”  And just in case the Governor were stumped by these ever-so-clear definitions of where invaders come from, the bill helpfully specifies that its provisions do not apply to foreign refugees and immigrants from the Western Hemisphere.  Good news, South Americans and Western Europeans!  And sorry, Middle Easterners, Africans, and Asians, but you know how it is.

Map of Earth with "Application Denied" on Eastern Hemisphere. No hard feelings, most of humanity.

The legislation would further aid in protecting Floridians by prohibiting state officials from helping in the resettlement of refugees and immigrants flagged as restricted persons unless authorized by the Governor.  The bill also does the public a service by barring refugee resettlement agencies from actually resettling any refugees for 5 years without the Governor’s express authorization for each refugee.

The bill goes on to require that anyone assisting with the relocation of a foreign refugee or immigrant submit the person’s fingerprints and other personal information to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for a background check.  No matter that the refugee has already gone through a two-year vetting process of interviews; home country reference checks; collection of fingerprints, iris scans, and other biometric information; and screenings by the FBI, DHS, and the State Department—the most rigorous screening of any traveler to the United States and an awfully circuitous route for an invader to take.  Florida can obviously do better than all of that.  Rep. Ray had the foresight to charge the refugees themselves for the privilege of undergoing a redundant FDLE background check— refugees fleeing war-torn countries absolutely should not get a free ride.

Finally, the bill authorizes the Governor to use all “emergency powers, and military force to prevent a restricted person from entering into or resettling in the state” and invites indefinite surveillance of them upon entry.  Floridians should sleep better at night knowing that the Governor will be prepared to call in the National Guard to stop refugees from crossing the state line and that big brother will be watching them if any actually clear the obstacle course we have set up.

Rather than pretending Florida is at war with refugees from outside the Western Hemisphere and inventing fear-mongering terms  to describe them as “restricted persons” or “invaders,” it would be more useful if the sponsors of this bill called it for what it is—“Florida’s Anti-Muslim Syrian Refugee Ban.”  Governor Rick Scott has already staked out his position opposing resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state without redundant FDLE background checks.  Florida legislators now have the opportunity to join him in thumbing their noses at the U.S. Constitution, which makes clear that the federal government has the exclusive power to admit and resettle refugees and bars discrimination on the basis of national origin or religion.

Instead of feigning a war with refugee invaders, and attempting to incite a xenophobic panic across the state, it would be better if Florida’s legislature could be straight with us and admit that they’ve been “Trumpified” and have no problem making a mockery out of the legislative process and the intelligence of Floridians.  This despite the small fraction of Syrian refugees who have actually come here.  Despite there being 4.6 million Syrian refugees, and the U.S. agreeing to take in 10,000 of them, only a little over 2,000 came to the United States over the last year.  And only a tiny fraction of these—somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 people—came to Florida over the last year.  Nonetheless, so far, three committees in the Florida House have drunk the Islamophobic anti-refugee kool-aid, and the bill is now ready for a floor vote.

We should not turn our backs on refugees who are fleeing horror and violence anywhere in the world.  Florida is better than this. This legislation is an embarrassment not only to our state but to the history of our nation as a place of refuge.

This bill is a bad joke. Tell your Senator and Representative to reject it today.