A day after being denied entry to a federal detention facility housing approximately 1,000 undocumented children, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson took to the Senate floor to report his experience and scold President Donald Trump for what he called a “shameful” policy of separating children from undocumented families seeking asylum at the border.
The 94 children at the Homestead facility are among the 174 children — some of them who are still nursing — who have been removed from their loved ones and are being housed in detention facilities in the Florida, according to Nelson.
Nelson said he was told by the deputy secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that the senior senator from Florida needed to fill out a form and wait two weeks to gain access to the facility, despite serving on the committee that oversees the agency.
“The question is why do they not want the senator from Florida to get into this detention facility where there are children that have been separated from their parents,” he said. “It must be that … this is being directed from the president and the White House and they don’t want me to see it because they don’t want us to know what is going on in there.”
Nelson, a Democrat who’s in the toughest election battle of his life as he squares off against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, is part of a growing chorus calling on Trump — who’s blamed the situation on Democrats for inaction on immigration reform — to reverse the policy, initiated by the Trump administration earlier this year.
“It’s up to him. He doesn’t need Congress to act. He and he alone is allowing this shameful practice to continue and he alone can stop it right now,” Nelson said.
The senator, who joined U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and incoming state House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee in the futile attempt to access the detention center, said he wanted to inspect the facility for himself.
“Is the facility clean? Are the children sleeping in beds? Are they sleeping on the floor? Are they having adequate care? And if they were, I could report that that was a good news story,” Nelson said.
Yesterday evening, Scott — a close ally of Trump — sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, demanding information about the children being warehoused in Florida.
“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 wrote in his harshest take on the issue yet, after returning from his seventh trip to Puerto Rico following island-ravaging Hurricane Maria in September.
Scott asked for details about where the children were being housed, if they were receiving health screenings, and what other services are being provided.