Family separation case splits attorney general candidates
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida would join a coalition of states suing the Trump administration over the separation of undocumented immigrant families if two Democrats running for attorney general had their way.
However, the two Republicans and lone independent seeking to replace term-limited Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has not joined the lawsuit, would stay out of the fight.
Republican candidates Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County circuit judge, and Frank White, a state lawmaker from Pensacola, were highly critical of the lawsuit filed Tuesday by 17 states with Democratic attorneys general -- Washington, New York, California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, North Carolina and Delaware -- and the District of Columbia.
The 128-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Seattle, contends a Trump administration separation policy infringes on parents' rights, violates Fifth Amendment guarantees of due process and is motivated by "animus" toward Latinos.
The separation of children from their parents at the country’s Southern border has led to an intense debate in recent weeks about immigration policy. President Donald Trump ultimately signed an executive order aimed at stopping the separations.
Moody said she “cannot imagine” being separated from her child. However, she called the lawsuit by other states nothing more than “posturing and political stunts” and said it “does not have a substantial likelihood of success.”
“Despite all the misinformation, the actual actions taken by the administration are facially legitimate and bona fide and not contrary to any existing federal statute,” Moody said.
Moody added that she doesn’t support the arguments from the Democratic attorney generals, as “the parents made a choice and that choice was not to enter the United States at a legal point of entry and claim asylum.”
“Instead, they chose to commit a crime,” Moody continued. “I believe that both the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection should improve their processes and look for alternatives that do not involve separation or that minimize disruption and potential harm to the children.”
White went deeper, calling the lawsuit “nothing more than a political witch hunt led entirely by liberal Democrat attorneys general from around the country ganging up against President Trump’s efforts to solve problems.”
“The fact is, our immigration policies have been badly broken for decades, and Congress must get its act together and follow President Trump’s lead by working to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system,” White said.
Moody also said Congress needs to act.
On the Democratic side of the race, state Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa tweeted, “As our next AG, I will stand on the side of these families & join this lawsuit immediately,”
“We must #EndFamilySeparation & protect these children!,” Shaw continued in the tweet.
Democrat Ryan Torrens, an attorney from Hillsborough County, called the lawsuit “courageous” against a “cruel and illegal policy.”
“This separation policy violates our deepest sense of humanity and the family values we all share,” Torrens said. “In yet another failure of leadership, Attorney General Pam Bondi has done nothing, while other states' attorneys general led the fight to end this inhumane separation policy.”
But Jeff Siskind, an attorney from Wellington who qualified last week to run for attorney general without party affiliation, said the state shouldn’t use its resources to join the lawsuit and said Congress must be pushed to end family separations. However, he otherwise doesn’t share the views of White and Moody on the Trump administration policy.
Siskin said such a lawsuit likely would drag on too long, and “we need an immediate reaction to this policy which, while perhaps not being intended to be discriminatory, is instead likely the most discriminatory government policy since World War II -- disproportionately affecting Latinos,” Siskind said. “Responsibility for insuring that Florida not become involved in what will for decades be viewed as a monstrous policy must fall on our state’s national elected officials -- our members of the U.S. House and Senate -- who must immediately condemn immigrant child separation in the strongest terms.”
Siskind added that Florida’s attorney general needs to lobby state lawmakers to prevent “child detention camps” from being set up in the state.
News Service of Florida