WASHINGTON – Gov. Rick Scott weighed in Monday on the child separation controversy at the southern border, saying he opposes the Trump administration policy but blaming Washington at large for having "failed to secure our borders."
"What the country is witnessing right now is the byproduct of the many years of bi-partisan inaction and failure from our federal government," Scott said in a statement the Tampa Bay Times. "They have failed to secure our borders, which has resulted in this chaos.
"Let me be clear – I do not favor separating families. Washington is to blame for this by being all talk and no action, and the solution is to secure the border. Anyone seeking to enter our country illegally needs to be sent back, with the exception of those who are truly seeking asylum from an oppressive regime."
Scott's statement did not mention Trump by name and critics have repeatedly pointed out that it's Trump's "zero tolerance" policy that has led to breaking up parents and children. There is no law, as Trump has said, mandating that action.
Nearly 2,000 children were separated from families during a six-week period in April and May, the Department of Homeland Security said last week.
Sen. Bill Nelson, like other Democrats, took a much harder stance on the policy and is co-sponsoring legislation to prohibit separation.
Scott is refusing to stand up to Trump, Nelson's campaign said.
"As thousands of kids sit and sleep in warehouses, separated from their parents, Rick Scott – once again – refuses to stand up to the Trump Administration's cruel and inhumane policy of separating families," spokeswoman Carlie Waibel said. "Bill Nelson is fighting in Congress to stop the separation of families – cosponsoring the Keep Families Together Act – and holding the Trump Administration accountable, while Rick Scott plays politics with these children's lives. It's time for Rick Scott to stand up to his friend Donald Trump and support legislation to keep families together."
Read more: Democratic governor candidates slam Republicans over Trump administration separating families at border.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, issued this statement Monday:
"It is totally unacceptable, for any reason, to purposely separate minor children from their parents. Any and every other option should be implemented in order to not separate minors from their parents, which I believe is unconscionable. We cannot allow for this to continue happening, and it must stop. I continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that the provision included in this week's immigration bill puts an end to this cruel practice."