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Eric Gay, File, Associated Press
FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2014 file photo, detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center, a temporary home for immigrant women and children detained at the border, in Karnes City, Texas. The Homeland Security Department has privately acknowledged that a remarkable number of young families caught crossing the border illegally earlier this year subsequently failed to meet with federal immigration agents, as they were instructed. At the meeting, the ICE official acknowledged the no-show figures while explaining the administration’s decision in June to open a temporary detention center for families in Artesia, New Mexico. A second immigration jail in Texas was later converted for families and can house about 530 people. A third such detention center will open in Texas later this year. Before the new facility in Artesia, the government had room for fewer than 100 people at its only family detention center in Pennsylvania.

WASHINGTON — For nearly three months this summer, the Obama administration carefully avoided answering questions about what happened to thousands of immigrant families caught illegally crossing the Mexican border.

Homeland Security Jeh (jay) Johnson and others would say only that they faced deportation.

It turns out that tens of thousands of those immigrants have not followed the government's instructions to report back to immigration authorities and instead vanished into the interior of the country.

The Homeland Security Department privately acknowledged to immigration advocates that about 70 percent of families hadn't reported as ordered. The disclosure came during a confidential meeting at its Washington headquarters for a federal working group on detention and enforcement policies.

The Associated Press obtained an audio recording of the meeting and separately interviewed participants.