WASHINGTON – The Trump administration says lawmakers’ visits to migrant children in federal shelters are wasting staff resources that could be used to help connect kids and parents.

But Democrats say lawmakers should be granted immediate access to shelters housing about 12,000 migrant children, including about 2,000 who have been separated from their parents as a result of President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border.

In a letter Tuesday to leaders of the Senate and House judiciary committees, the Health and Human Services Department says nearly 500 work hours have been devoted to arranging visits for more than 70 lawmakers.

The letter says, “Many of these hours would otherwise have been spent … verifying parental relationships.”

HHS is asking lawmakers to submit visit requests two weeks in advance.