Gov. Rick Scott says Florida is 'melting pot,' but 'immigration system does not work'

Ban against travelers from Muslim-majority countries sparks protests across US

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor, Michael Seiden - Reporter, Glenna Milberg - Reporter

MIRAMAR, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott, who was in South Florida on Monday, talked about President Donald Trump's recent executive order to ban travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

The 90-day ban for travelers, imposed on Friday, sparked protests all over the nation, but Scott said he believes that the new president is "working for public safety."

"It is important to me. Our immigration system doesn't work, as we all know," Scott said.

The executive order included an indefinite ban for Syrian refugees and a 120-day ban for other refugees. 

Despite his seeming support for the order, Scott said Florida is a state full of immigrants and that will not change.

"We are a melting pot. Over 250 languages are spoken in our state, and we are going to continue to be a melting pot," he said. "We are a place that's full of immigrants, and we are going to continue to be that place."

While Scott said that the state "loves immigrants," he said he wants to know who is coming into Florida -- something that he said he wasn't provided by the Obama administration.

"We love immigrants. We are a state of immigrants. We are a country of immigrants, but we do care about public safety," Scott said.

"I should know who's going to come to our state. I had a call with the Obama White House, and they couldn't tell me who was coming to my state. They wouldn't tell me how vetting was better and they wouldn't share any vetting info with my law enforcement."

Scott said the current immigration system is not working and insisted that Trump's order was about safety.

"So do you support (Trump's) executive order that he just signed?" Local 10 News reporter Michael Seiden asked Scott.

"It is an issue that he's focused on as public safety, and I'm focused on public safety in my state, but I know what he's focused on is keeping our country secure," Scott answered.

"Our immigration system is a mess. We all care about public safety. We all need to work together and figure out how to improve our immigration system, but (we) do want everyone in our state be safe."

Scott also spoke against those who call the order a Muslim ban, saying that Muslims are not his concern, but radical Islam is.

"It is not a Muslim ban," Scott said. "Let's think about it. We have Muslims that love our state and Muslims that love our country, and we have radical Islam that actually wants to do harm."

Congressional leaders from South Florida also spoke to Local 10 News Monday about the ban.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said she is against the executive order, but it unsure whether Congress will act against it.

"I think there are some folks for it, some against it. Me, I'm against it, but (for congressional action), we don't have a majority by a long shot," she said.

Ros-Lehtinen said that she agrees with the president that the country's security is important, but said that he is going about it the wrong way.

"I'm definitely in favor of keeping our homeland safe. I think that that really is the goal of President Trump, and I agree with him, but the process to get to that objective is wrong," she said.

Ros-Lehtinen said the country's current vetting process is strong, but said it could be improved.

"We have had, in our Middle East subcommittee, several hearings on the vetting process," Ros-Lehtinen said. "It's a 2-year process. It is vigorous; it is strong. Can it be improved? Everything can be improved, and I want to work with Donald Trump to improve it, to make it stricter and make sure that the folks who come here want what's best for America."

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., also addressed the executive order, vowing to fight against it.

"I can assure you that I will not be silent. I will not be quiet," she said. "I will make sure that I use every ounce of my energy and every inch of authority that my office grants me, standing with my colleagues, standing with leaders in this community to say, 'We will not go back. We will not be a country that doesn't stand up for our values, for freedom and for democracy, and to welcome people who have fled violence and oppression.'"

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