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C CAIR-FL In The News

Clothing drive aims to help Syrian refugee families in Tampa Sunday

By Kate Bradshaw, For Creative Loafing, On 25 January 2016, Read Original

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Momentarily, the Syrian refugee crisis has faded from headlines and from social media arguments.

But the reality is, the families fleeing the carnage there remain a political football in the U.S., including Florida. Activists are trying to quell the fears about them by emphasizing the stringent process prospective refugees undergo in order to get here, as well as the stand-up community members many of them become once they get here. (We wrote about this a while back.)

On Sunday, members of the group Love has no Borders will gather to accept donated clothing, nonperishables and other goods to distribute to the small amount of Syrian refugees that have found homes in the Tampa Bay area.

To Laila Abdelaziz, legislative director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida (CAIR), the event signifies compassion against a backdrop of intolerance, namely on the part of Governor Rick Scott and the Florida legislature's attempts to alienate those fleeing war-torn Syria.

Gov. Scott has openly criticized the well-established practice of taking in those whose whose lives are in danger in their own home countries, and State Sen. Wilton Simpson (R—Trilby) filed a bill targeting people who are vaguely alluded to people from countries where there are "invaders or prospective invaders," though it doesn't single out Syrians. The bill gives the governor the authority to ban certain people, would not allow any state dollars to go toward such people, and would cut state funding (i.e. unemployment compensation) off from anyone who helps such a refugee.

“At a time when our governor and our state legislature are considering a bill that would put refugees on the watch list and give the governor the opportunity to deport refugees he thinks are dangerous to our state, it's really reassuring to know that the overwhelming majority of actual Floridians want to reach out and help these people that are fleeing from war torn countries,” she said.

The number of Syrians fleeing the violence — including the likes of doctors, lawyers and others — has topped 11 million. Many are fleeing to Europe, and some are going to other parts of the Middle East. The U.S. has agreed to take in 10,000, but so far has only taken 2,500 in. Of those, some 150 Syrian refugees have come to Florida so far.

Abdelaziz said she thinks that, unlike state leaders, informed Floridians are on the whole much more welcoming.

“We don't see, in our communities, people actively organizing to deny refugees from coming to the state, but that's what our legislators are doing. But in the reverse, you see the actual community coming together," Abdelaziz said. "There was a picnic on New Year's Day...there's this goods and food and clothing drive that's being put on by the community, and I think that's the message that we want to continue pushing out there because that's the healthy, non-isolationist environment that we want to create for these families that have gone through just unbearable circumstances.”

The event takes place from 12-2 p.m. at Compass Self Storage at 14529 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in Tampa. Here's a link to its Facebook invite.