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The Florida Senate

Senator Stewart, District 13 — Press Release


June 26, 2018

CONTACT: Dana Rutledge, 407-893-2422

Senator Linda Stewart Calls on Governor Scott To End Inaction On Seperated Refugee Families

Urges deployment of legal assistance in Florida to expedite family reunions


ORLANDO, FL – Frustrated with the lack of any direction from the Trump Administration to return countless separated refugee children now languishing in detention facilities in Florida, state Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) called on Governor Rick Scott to deploy legal assistance to expedite reunification efforts.


The governor last week asked to be kept informed, “on any measures the state can facilitate to help the reunification process,” wrote Senator Stewart in a letter sent Tuesday. “One week later, nothing has been done by the Trump Administration to ‘facilitate the reunification process.’ And nothing has been done by you.”


Citing the recent action begun by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who took it upon himself to enlist the assistance of city attorneys and legal professionals to begin the identification and reunion process of hundreds of separated children now housed in foster facilities there, Senator Stewart urged Governor Scott to do the same.


“Waiting for direction from President Trump is not an option,” she wrote, noting the governor’s request for further instructions from Washington. “In the week since you sent your letter, the situation has further deteriorated, the parents are no closer to finding their children, and 2,300 young lives are hanging in the balance as an administration in chaos remains rudderless…


“You have the power, as governor, to show that your opposition to family separations is more than just words. Like Mayor de Blasio, you, too, can help end this crisis by summoning legal professionals within government to help ‘facilitate the reunification process’ for these families.”


Senator Stewart also suggested that the governor simultaneously issue a call for help from private attorneys, many of whom “would be eager and anxious to help end this humanitarian crisis.”


There are at least three facilities in Florida currently housing the children of refugee parents arrested under President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. The exact number transferred here remains unknown.


Although the president retreated on his separation orders following a massive public outcry, no real effort has yet begun by his administration to expedite the return of these children to their parents.


And, other than the letter sent last week to the U.S Secretary of Health and Human Services stating his opposition to the policy and asking to be kept informed, Governor Scott has likewise failed to launch any independent effort to reunite the separated children held in Florida detention facilities.


“Seven days without any action may seem insignificant, but to these parents and children, it is a lifetime,” wrote Senator Stewart. “You and I would move both heaven and earth if this were our children or grandchildren on the line, as would most Floridians.


“If you are as opposed to this separation policy as you stated, I ask you to join the majority of Floridians who agree that this ongoing segregation of refugee parents and children is wrong, and strongly against prolonging it on their behalf. I urge you to act on my recommendation immediately, and help these families become whole again by providing legal assistance.”