Florida Gov. Rick Scott has sharpened his opposition to the federal government’s separation of children from adults who attempt to illegally enter the U.S., specifically linking the policy to President Donald Trump and declaring in a letter late Tuesday that “This practice needs to stop now.”
Scott expressed his position in a letter to Health and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar seeking information about an HHS-run facility in Homestead that is housing 94 minors who were separated from their parents.
A spokesman for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said Scott should have taken his concerns directly to Trump, a political ally who publicly urged Scott to challenge Nelson this year.
“President Trump could end this policy with the stroke of a pen. If Gov. Scott really cared about these kids, he would have written this letter to Trump asking him to end this policy instead of asking HHS to confirm what we all already know,” said Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown. Nelson and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, were denied access to the Homestead facility earlier Tuesday.
On Monday, Scott said he did not favor separating families and blamed the practice generally on the failures of “Washington.” The governor’s position wasn’t significantly different from that of Trump, who called the separations “so sad” but blamed them on congressional Democrats for not supporting a border wall and other Trump immigration priorities.
In his letter to Azar on Tuesday, Scott began by citing “decades of failed immigration policies from Washington.” But in discussing the current controversy over family separations, he attributed the policy specifically to the president and the crackdown on illegal immigration ordered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April.
“Recently, we received unconfirmed reports that this (Homestead) facility is now potentially holding children who have been forcibly removed from their families as a result of President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy toward illegal entry into the United States,” Scott’s letter says.
“I have been very clear that I absolutely do not agree with the practice of separating children from their families. This practice needs to stop now.”
Scott’s letter concludes: “Reunifying the children who have been separated from their families is very important and the State of Florida stands ready to assist in this process. Please inform me on any measures the state can facilitate to help the reunification process. It is extremely frustrating that, after decades of inaction by the federal government, many innocent children are now paying the price for the failures of Washington. Congress must address our immigration system immediately.”