Rep. Leonard Lance Friday called for precise answers about how many children have been separated from their parents when entering the United States, and admitted the practice makes him angry.
"Of course, yes," the New Jersey Republican told CNN's John Berman on "New Day," while they were discussing President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance policy and the failures of Congress to approve immigration legislation.
"I believe that children and parents should remain together."
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, during a conference call with reporters on Thursday, did not provide an exact number of children who have been separated from families, but said that "a review and comprehensive audit of multiple data sets" HHS and the Department of Homeland Security show fewer than 3,000 total children, about 100 of whom are under the age of 5, are in the care of Office of Refugee Resettlement-funded grantees, reports CNN.
He also said HHS has not sent any children into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but will as a court deadline for reunification comes closer.
"I hope there is an effort" toward reunification, Lance said Friday. "I see some evidence of wanting it completely done and not just one at a time. It should be unified, across the board."
Trump has blamed Congress for not passing comprehensive reform for the issues with the separated children, but Lance blamed the matter on president's policy of having zero-tolerance for illegal border crossings.
"I do think, however, that we should move immigration legislation," said Lance. "I voted for a compromise bill a week ago that did not receive any support on the other side. I hope that we can work in a bipartisan capacity on a compromise legislation in this regard, and for the children, specific legislation."
Meanwhile, Lance said lawmakers have written to Azar demanding a precise count of how many children are involved.
"I hope that the secretary responds to us and if not, he should come before us to explain the precise number," said Lance, adding that he doesn't know the answer about whether HHS knows the number,"but I hope they know and it is certainly a requirement that they know and they find out with precision."
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