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Florida Senate candidate says it's not safe to allow 'anybody from the Middle East' into U.S.

By Anthony Man, For Sun Sentinel, On 26 April 2016, Read Original

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Donald Trump suggested banning all Muslims from entering the U.S. The U.S. House voted to restrict travelers who have visited Iraq. Now, a Florida candidate for U.S. Senate wants to ban anyone from a Middle Eastern country, except Israel, from entering the United States.

During the question-and-answer session that followed a speech to the Broward CountyRepublican Party on Monday night, Carlos Beruff was asked by someone in the audience about his "position on Muslim immigration."

"Ah ha," he said. "I think our immigration department is broken. And I don't think it's safe to allow anybody from the Middle East into this country."

Most of the audience of about 200 Republicans gathered at Deicke Auditorium in Plantation erupted in applause and some cheers. When the response died down, Beruff added, "until they fix it."

Later, asked by a reporter how broad his ban would be, he said: "I think it's pretty simple. We have a system that doesn't work. When they fix that, I don't care. But right now we have a terrorist threat that's very real. You want to ignore it, but I don't."

He said he would apply the ban to people from many countries. "Pretty much anybody that's got a terrorist organization in it, which is pretty much all the Middle East." Asked about Israel, he said the ban wouldn't apply to people from that country. "I think Israel's security measures are pretty strong," he said. "Israel is an exception."

Although the original question from the audience member was about "Muslim immigration," Beruff said in the interview that his ban would apply to Christians and Muslims. "Unless you can tell me how you get the system to be able to do that correctly, I think it applies to everybody.

Several Republicans at the event said they supported the position espoused by Beruff, a Bradenton home builder who has held several gubernatorial appointments but never before sought elective office.

"I think it's a good idea. Safety, right?" said Antonio Monteiro, a Republican committeeman from Margate.

Robert Ynacay, a Republican committeeman from Pembroke Pines, cautioned against letting "political correctness" get in the way of smart policy. "It's not a wrong statement to make," he said. "There's no vetting. We've got to be careful out there."

Committeeman Jack Majeske of Wilton Manors called it "a loaded situation" and said he was conflicted over the proposal. "Part of me says yeah, that's a good idea. Part of me says that's really not that great an idea because we don't really do that for anybody else."

Broward Republican Chairman Bob Sutton said he wouldn't support a total ban "but we need to do a better job of screening. I would not say we have to ban everyone, but we do have to get a process in place that America is safe first, other countries are safe second."

Sutton said he didn't see Beruff's position as aimed at Muslims. "It's not anti-Muslim. It's not anti anything. We've got to go and make our people safe."

Former Sheriff Al Lamberti, who spoke to the Republicans about terrorism earlier in the evening and was in the audience when Beruff, answered the question, said he didn't view the comment as anti-Muslim. "I don't think it has to do with Muslim or not. It has to do with the behavior, not the nationality."

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Tuesday that the Broward Republicans are wrong.

"Anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry has become fashionable in Republican Party politics. Islamophobia almost seems to be a litmus test now for Republican candidates, that they have to advocate somehow anti-Muslim bigotry and intolerance," he said. "It's strange because many Muslims are social conservatives. And American Muslims should be a voting bloc that the Republican Party is seeking to attract and not repel."

Hooper rejected the assertion that such a ban isn't anti-Muslim. "It's often [the case], of course, that those who hold bigoted views don't realize that those views are bigoted."

Lamberti declined to take a position on whether the policy suggested by Beruff would be effective.

"I've heard the FBI director say terrorists, ISIS terrorists, have said the plan is to infiltrate the refugee stream. Based on that people can make their own decision," Lamberti said. "I'm Joe Citizen. You need to ask somebody in power."