Republicans from Miami-Dade on Monday condemned the Trump administration's decision to separate families crossing the southern border, with adults being sent to detention centers while their children are housed in cages and cry for their parents.
"It is totally unacceptable, for any reason, to purposely separate minor children from their parents," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, who, along with Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is leading negotiations on a compromise all-Republican immigration bill in Congress. "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.”
Curbelo called the separation policy "a tragedy" on Twitter over the weekend, and referenced former President Barack Obama's policy of detaining families and unaccompanied minors.
"While some tolerated it when it happened under the previous administration, I found it unacceptable then & I find it unacceptable now," Curbelo tweeted. "We’re crafting legislation to remedy this sad situation."
The White House announced the policy in April as a way to deter immigrants from entering the country illegally, and administration officials have defended it in the face of widespread criticisms from across the political spectrum.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio advocated for changing laws to allow families to stay together while being held in detention instead of separating them. Current law does not require separating families who cross the border illegally, and the compromise immigration bill includes a provision that would end the practice.
"Currently govt must either release parents & continue incentive for illegal entry with children or separate families by detaining parents," Rubio tweeted. "Neither is good. Lets change the law to allow families to be held together at family facilities & shorten detention with expedited hearings."
Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who will likely challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson for his seat in November, said he does not support the separations but blamed Washington for failing to pass immigration bills.
"What the country is witnessing right now is the byproduct of the many years of bipartisan inaction and failure from our federal government," Scott said in a statement. "They have failed to secure our borders, which has resulted in the 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."
Republican Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who is from Miami, also condemned the policy.
"DHS policy of separating small children from their parents is wrong and should be discontinued immediately. We are a nation of laws but also of compassion," Lopez-Cantera tweeted.
Curbelo and Diaz-Balart will likely face well-funded Democratic challengers this fall in elections that are expected to be competitive.
Every single Senate Democrat, including Nelson, has signed on to a bill that would ban the U.S. government from separating families at the border. None of the 51 Senate Republicans have signed on to the bill.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, told reporters during a roundtable today that roughly 1,000 migrant children are being held at a facility in Homestead, the Miami New Times reported. The Homestead facility held unaccompanied minor children during the Obama administration and recently reopened, according to multiple reports.
Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring, blamed the president for instituting the separation policy earlier this year.
"Separating families at the border is a cruel policy that needlessly subjects both parents and children to emotional and psychological harm," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "President Trump has chosen to implement this policy and he can put an end to it but he chooses not to do so and instead blames others."