As 17 other states filed a lawsuit Tuesday in an attempt to force President Donald Trump's administration to reunite migrant families, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office said she had no jurisdiction over the issue.
"The Attorney General has never supported separating children from their parents, however, the Florida Attorney Generals's Office has no jurisdiction over federal immigration laws," said Whitney Ray, a spokesman for Bondi in a statement issued to the Times before the lawsuit was announced.
Ray did not answer whether the Republican attorney general will join in the suit or file a brief in support of the states suing the administration.
Massachusetts, California, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington are the states involved in the suit against Trump's immigration policy. All of the states have a Democratic attorney general.
They joined Washington D.C. in suing Trump over the executive order he signed last week lifting the policy that separated children from their families. That order, the states say, is riddled with caveats and fails to reunite parents and children who have already been torn apart.
Immigration authorities have separated about 2,300 children from their families in recent weeks, sparking global outrage and forcing Trump to issue his executive order last week. The Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday that 2,047 children are still apart from their parents
A U.S. judge in San Diego already is considering whether to issue a nationwide injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union that would order the administration to reunite the separated children with their parents.
Ray's statement that Bondi has no jurisdiction over federal immigration law is in keeping with her not opposing the Trump administration, but at odds with her office's history of challenging federal law and laws in other states.
In 2012, Bondi filed a brief joining 21 other states in a lawsuit challenging the ban on semiautomatic weapons Connecticut passed after the Sandy Hook school shooting.
She's written in support of Arizona's hard-line immigration law, the expansion of the Keystone oil pipeline and Boeing's handling of a labor dispute in South Carolina. Bondi also opposed cleanup efforts in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay.
In addition to those causes, Bondi is well-known for Florida's unsuccessful efforts to challenge the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping federal health care law passed in 2010. Her efforts to have the law struck down cost state taxpayers at least $70,000 in legal fees in 2010. In 2013 Bondi filed a challenge to "navigators" who were hired to help the uninsured to sign up for coverage under the law. And in February of this year, Bondi joined Florida to a 19-state lawsuit that again challenged the constitutionality of the ACA — a move critics contend could undermine the law's protection of insurance customers with pre-existing conditions.
Bondi has also challenged the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the federal Clean Air Act.
Asked Tuesday how Bondi could have played a role in challenging those state and federal laws but not have standing to challenge Trump's family separation policy — which she opposes — Ray did not immediately respond.
At a Tuesday campaign event in Tampa, Gov. Rick Scott struck a different tone from Bondi.
Although the immigration compounds are the domain of the federal government, Gov. Rick Scott pledged to use whatever state resources he could to help reunite the families.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.