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“These in­di­vid­u­als are lit­er­ally in limbo, peo­ple without a coun­try. We have to be able to re­solve this,” Lank­ford said.

The sen­a­tor de­clined to give de­tails of the Til­lisLank­ford bill. There are about 7,500 DACA ben­e­fi­cia­ries in Ok­la­homa.

“As the pres­i­dent men­tioned this morn­ing, many of these kids are grad­u­at­ing from school, they’ve got jobs, they’re very en­gaged,” he added. “They’re pro­duc­tive mem­bers of so­ci­ety. They are here and should be here. We’ve got to be able to re­solve this leg­isla­tively.”

Lank­ford has been an out­spo­ken sup­porter of DACA ben­e­fi­cia­ries, even as the is­sue has di­vided Repub­li­cans. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, whose ad­min­is­tra­tion ended DACA, has called on Congress to pro­tect DACA re­cip­i­ents.

“Does any­body re­ally want to throw out good, ed­u­cated and ac­com­plished young peo­ple who have jobs, some serv­ing in the mil­i­tary?” the pres­i­dent tweeted on Thurs­day.

An­other Ok­la­homa City Repub­li­can, U.S. Rep. Steve Rus­sell, has also made clear his sup­port for DACA ben­e­fi­cia­ries and urged Congress to pro­tect them from de­por­ta­tion.

“They had no choice on be­ing here when they came here as chil­dren through the ac­tions of oth­ers,” he said in a state­ment last week. “A res­i­dency would give them a way to abide by our laws and then whether or not they would even­tu­ally be­come cit­i­zens would be on their own mer­its.”

Trump an­gered many hard-line con­ser­va­tive sup­port­ers late Wed­nes­day when he struck a deal with Congress’s lead­ing Democrats, Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, that would trade his DACA sup­port for en­hanced bor­der se­cu­rity but not a mas­sive wall along the south­ern bor­der, a pri­or­ity for Trump sup­port­ers.

“That doesn’t sur­prise me, quite frankly, be­cause I know lo­gis­tics,” Lank­ford said of the ab­sence of a wall in the bi­par­ti­san agree­ment.

“The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity has yet to be able to ex­plain to the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee or our com­mit­tee what the wall would look like, where they would put it ex­actly, how it would be con­structed, the fi­nal cost of it,” he added. “All those things are still up in the air. Un­til they can re­solve those things, we shouldn’t have a bor­der wall fund­ing is­sue. They need to be able to re­solve what they’re ask­ing for so Congress will know what they’re ac­tu­ally fund­ing.”

Lank­ford dis­agreed with con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tors who con­sider Trump’s deal mak­ing with Democrats on DACA to be po­lit­i­cal sui­cide.

“The vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple I talk to, re­gard­less of party or peo­ple who don’t re­ally con­nect with a party, want this to be re­solved,” he said. “This is one of those is­sues that for a very long time has hung out there and un­til this is re­solved, you can’t move on to a lot of other is­sues.”

In 2010, be­fore Lank­ford’s ten­ure in Congress, leg­is­la­tion sim­i­lar to DACA passed the House but fell a vote shy in the Se­nate. No one from Ok­la­homa voted in fa­vor of it.


U.S. Sen. James Lank­ford, R-Ok­la­homa City, speaks to re­porters on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton last month.

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