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Lankford makes Senate floor plea to fix immigration, defends ICE

Senator James Lankford speaks on the Senate floor on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (Office of Oklahoma Senator James Lankford)

President Donald Trump has repeatedly called on Congress to pass immigration legislation as tensions grow over the separation of families at the border. On Wednesday, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford echoed those calls.

Lankford, in a speech on the Senate floor, again pushed the Senate to not delay immigration reform and work on serious proposals. the Oklahoma senator made a similar plea in June.

This time, Lankford focused in on the issue that's swept over the country: the separation of families at the border. Lankford says while he has called for the administration to keep families together, there's a lot of processing that needs to be done after the US has seen a drastic increase in "fake families" detained.

"In the last five months, there’s been a 315 percent increase in apprehensions of groups that fraudulently claim to be families," said Lankford. "Not a 315 percent increase in families. These are smugglers that bring a child with them, because they know if you bring a child with you, then you are treated differently in the border."

Lankford says, historically, families were released into the country while officials worked out who to prosecute, and that smugglers have taken advantage of that system. He says the Trump administration is trying to close that loophole.

But the US border has seen a drastic influx in actual families crossing as well.

"According to the Customs and Border Patrol, there is a 407 percent increase in the number of family units detained in June of 2018 as compared to June of 2017," said Lankford. "In May, it was a 600 percent increase. In April, it was an 863 percent increase. We’re seeing a dramatic shift in the number of units that are coming at us. No matter your view on immigration reform, increases of this kind of magnitude should cause us to be able to slow down and be able to ask some simple questions. Are the loopholes in our law and the prosecutorial discretion to release families to show up later for a hearing, is that causing more individuals to be able to pretend to be families or more families to be able to come?"

Lankford also defended the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency amid calls from some Democrats to abolish the group put in place following the 9/11 attacks.

"After [ICE] was created in 2003, there is this big movement as if we have lost all that we learned since 2001. That now there’s a whole group saying that maybe we need to just abolish ICE entirely," said Lankford. "Why don't we show them some respect, and if there are things that need to be done to be able to reform it, the ICE agents would be the first ones to step up to this body and to say, here are some ideas and some things that can be done to reform it. But, abolishing ICE—abolishing ICE is a ticket to lawlessness in our country."

Senator Lankford says ICE is integral in stopping drug and human trafficking into the United States. Watch Lankford's full remarks below.

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