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GOP senator: Trump administration transparency on immigration 'one of the great frustrations'

The Hill logo The Hill 6/24/2018 Ellen Mitchell

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said on Sunday said the Trump administration has not been fully transparent about its policy on immigrants at the southern border.

"Do you feel as if the White House has been fully transparent with the American public about what they're trying to do here?" host Chuck Todd asked on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"I don't, actually. Now this has been one of the great frustrations," Lankford responded.

"I think the White House has not been clear on how bad the Flores settlement is," he added, referring to a 1997 federal court decision that strictly limits the government's ability to keep immigrant children in detention.

James Lankford and woman standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera © Provided by The Hill

President Trump's "zero tolerance" policy, enacted earlier this year, requires that all immigrants apprehended for illegally entering the U.S. be prosecuted.

The policy led to thousands of migrant families being separated, sparking backlash over the issue from both Democrats and Republicans. To ease criticism, Trump last week signed an executive order ending family separations.

Trump had initially claimed that he could not end the policy and attempted to blame Democrats.

Lankford - who was one of 13 Republican senators who asked the Trump administration to stop separating immigrant families at the border while Congress works out legislation - also said on Sunday the administration knows "where every single child is" that has been separated from their guardian.

"This is an issue that's gone out there somewhat in some of the other media that's not been responsible with this, that with the assumption that the administration lost track of that," he said.

"These are career professionals that work with [the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)] ... They know where every child is to be able to connect them to their parent or their relative that came. But HHS often puts them in foster care across several states because they can't handle the load on the southern border."

When pressed on how parents and children might be reunited, Lankford said the administration is working on figuring out whether the adult a child came with is the parent or another relative.

Of the 2,300 children separated from their guardian since May 5, only 522 children have been reunited with their families, according to the administration.

The children still in custody are housed at about 100 shelters in 17 states.

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