Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter late Tuesday to the Department of Health and Human Services Secetary Alex Azar telling him that he does not agree with President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy in immigration cases.
“I have been very clear that I absolutely do not agree with the practice of separating children from families,” Scott wrote to Azar. “This practice needs to stop now.”
The letter follows news that a 1,000-bed shelter in Homestead is being used to house 94 children who have been separated from their families.
“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,” Scott wrote to Azar. “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.”
Earlier Tuesday, Scott’s political opponent in November, Sen. Bill Nelson, was turned away from the shelter in Homestead when he arrived to tour the facility and check on the well-being of the children being housed there.
“Right now you guys are trespassing on federal property,” a uniformed man told Nelson, along with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and state Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami.
“This is not a good day for our country,” Nelson said on Twitter.
Debate over President Trump’s zero tolerance policy in immigration cases and the shelter being used in Homestead dominated the headlines in Florida.
“While I support securing our borders and keeping America safe – as a man of faith, I cannot support separating children from their families, this is unethical and shameful to say the least,” continued state Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah. “Our immigration policies must unite families, not split them from each other.”
“Governor Scott holds a great deal of power over the state’s complicity in this tragedy. Unless he agrees with the president, he has a duty to act quickly,” state Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens.
In his letter to Azar, Scott asked the HHS secretary to notify him of any current or future unaccompanied minors housed at Homestead. Scott also wants to know if the minors are being given health screenings both at the border and when they arrive at the shelter. And he asks what health, educational, or other social services have been provided to any children being housed at the Homestead shelter.