Rick Santorum Says Missing Migrant Children Are No Biggie, The US Loses People "All The Time"

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A former Republican senator and presidential candidate argued on Sunday that it's not the federal government's fault that nearly 1,500 migrant children are considered missing after being placed in United States custody. Rick Santorum said the missing migrant children aren't a big deal, as well as defended the Trump administration's plan to begin splitting up families at the border. "I mean, we lose people all the time in a lot of other government programs," Santorum said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lost track of 1,475 migrant children last year, a top HHS official told Congress in April. Santorum said on Sunday that calling those children missing is hyperbole and creates an issue "where I don’t really think there is one." The problem is simply bureaucracy, he said.

Santorum also blamed migrant parents for a proposed policy that would allow the government to take children from their parents after they illegally cross the U.S. border. “With all due respect, these parents are putting their children in peril by coming across the border,” he said.

When his fellow panelists asserted that people illegally crossing the United State's southern border are often running from dangerous situations, Santorum doubled down. "You don’t know their situation,” the former Republican politician said. “There may be all sorts of reasons people come here.”

Reports of the missing children gained new attention after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said earlier this month that a “zero-tolerance” policy on illegal immigration could result in families being split up at the border.

“We don’t want to separate families, but we don’t want families to come to the border illegally and attempt to enter into this country improperly,” Sessions said. “The parents are subject to prosecution while children may not be. So, if we do our duty and prosecute those cases, then children inevitably for a period of time might be in different conditions.”

The 1,475 children HHS has classified as "lost" didn't come to the United States with their parents, but were taken into government custody after crossing the border alone. However, the fact that the government isn't sure what happened to those children after they were released to U.S. sponsors concerned those criticizing the Trump administration's plan to split up migrant families. The New York Times reported in April that more than 700 children have already been taken from their parents at the border since October.

While the 1,475 missing children aren't directly tied to immigration officials splitting up families, the high number raised the question of what will happen to children who are taken from their guardian. Santorum isn't concerned, though, telling CNN "there are logical explanations" for the missing children.

“If you think 1,500 children being lost is not an issue, then there’s something definitely wrong,” former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle told Santorum on the CNN panel.

Santorum wasn't alone in his argument that the children might not actually be lost, however. Josie Duffy Rice, a lawyer and research director at the Fair Punishment Project, explained in a Twitter thread on Sunday that the children's sponsors could simply not be taking HHS's calls. Dara Lind, a Vox immigration reporter, made a similar point on Twitter, writing that "we do not know how many of these children weren’t located because they and their relatives in the US (who might even be their parents!) made the decision to go off the grid to reduce deportation risk."

Nevertheless, Santorum's justification that "we lose people all the time" wasn't reassuring. In fact, it raised more questions about who the federal government has "lost."