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Romney calls for ‘disturbing’ family separations to stop

U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney delivers a speech to the Utah Republican Nominating Convention in April in West Valley City. (Leah Hogsten/Salt Lake Tribune/AP)

WEST JORDAN, Utah — Republican Senate candidate Mitt Romney called on the Trump administration Monday to stop separating immigrant families at the southern border, calling the controversy a “humanitarian crisis” that requires Congress to devise a permanent solution.

Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, declined to blame President Trump or the Department of Homeland Security specifically in remarks to a group of voters at a park here. He called images of children separated from their parents “pretty disturbing” and “heartbreaking.”

“I think immediately we should go back to the setting where we’re not ripping children away from their parents, and then we expect Congress to take whatever action is necessary to fix this on a permanent basis,” Romney said.

“I believe the right answers will be held with the administration and the Congress working together,” he said.

Romney is running in the Republican primary race against state legislator Mike Kennedy; Romney is favored to win the June 26 election.

Trump has struck a defiant tone amid bipartisan criticism of his “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents at the border since May.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is waging a publicity campaign against the Trump administration’s "zero tolerance" crackdown on immigrant families. (Video: Jenny Starrs, Jon Gerberg/The Washington Post)

Though Romney previously described himself as more conservative than Trump on immigration, the former Massachusetts governor distanced himself from the family separations earlier Monday with a tweet.

Reposting a tweet from former first lady Laura Bush calling the separations “cruel” and “immoral,” Romney wrote that “we need a more compassionate answer.”

Trump, though he is empowered to immediately stop the separations, has falsely blamed congressional Democrats for the crisis. He warned that parents illegally crossing the border could be “murderers and thieves and so much else.”

The crisis has quickly become an issue in Senate races around the country, as Republicans seek to defend their majority in November.

Another GOP Senate candidate, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, said in a statement Monday, “Let me be clear — I do not favor separating families.”