immigration

Nelson takes to Senate floor to blast child separation

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.

Scott backs Trump on immigration

Gov. Rick Scott weighed in Tuesday on President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order requiring additional vetting of nationals from seven countries with a majority of Muslim residents.

Scott, a major Trump supporter, praised the president for his focus on “the security of Americans.”

“I believe we now have a president that is going to work with the state of Florida to be concerned about the safety of Floridians that live here and all the people that visit here,” the Republican governor told reporters and editors at The Associated Press’s annual pre-session gathering in the Capitol.

When pressed by a reporter about the difference between Trump’s order targeting Muslims and Scott’s criticism of  President Obama’s order that ended the “wet foot/dry foot” policy for Cuban immigrants, Scott said that Obama issued the directive without consulting members of Congress — some of the same criticism Republicans and Democrats alike are lobbing at Trump now.

“With regard to what President Obama did with regard to Cuba, we have members of our Congress that are of Cuban dissent, didn’t reach out to them. He didn’t create a safety net for people that are leaving a brutal dictatorship, i.e. Raul Castro,” Scott said.

Trump will “tweak” his immigration ban “to make sure it works,” Scott went on.

“He believes in the security of all Americans but more importantly he does understand we have to be the safety net country for people who are leaving oppression,” he said.

Scott elaborated about the president’s impact on Florida later.

“We happen to be the best melting pot in the world,” Scott said, noting that 150 languages are spoken in the state, which is a magnet for foreign emigres.

“Now, let’s put it into perspective. We love tourists. Our immigration system is a disaster. There’s no sense to it. It didn’t get better under president Obama. My goal is, with President Trump, that we have a system that, one, we keep Americans safe and we continue to welcome people that want to come here and help us build our country.”

Florida is “completely tied to the world economy,” Scott added.

“A third of the people who moved here last year moved from another country. It’s remarkable,” he said. “So we’ve got to do this right. But we know that the system we have today is not working.”