Reuniting Families Separated at Border Could Take Months, Federal Officials Said

Children and workers are seen at a tent encampment recently built near the Tornillo Port of Entry on June 19, 2018 in Tornillo, Texas. The Trump administration is using the Tornillo tent facility to house immigrant children separated from their parents after they were caught entering the U.S. under the administration's zero tolerance policy. (Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Children and workers are seen at a tent encampment recently built near the Tornillo Port of Entry on June 19, 2018 in Tornillo, Texas. The Trump administration is using the Tornillo tent facility to house immigrant children separated from their parents after they were caught entering the U.S. under the administration's zero tolerance policy. (Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The process of reunifying families who have been separated at the border could take months, federal officials said Friday, as lawyers, advocates and lawmakers said that the path ahead remained murky and chaotic, and the Trump administration failed again to provide clear direction on how to resolve the issue.

“To wait four months — my God, that’s agonizing,” said Daniel Garza, president of the conservative Latino organization Libre Initiative, after a Department of Health and Human Services field supervisor outlined a process that could last that long while speaking in McAllen, Texas, at a roundtable convened by the state’s two senators.

Federal officials say about 2,300 children have been detained apart from their parents since May, when the administration began holding many adults who cross the border illegally and charging them with misdemeanors, rather than allowing them to await asylum hearings with monitoring — a process President Trump has derided as “catch and release.”

On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order intended to halt the separation of parents and children by detaining families together. Since then, his administration has struggled to articulate a plan to put the families back together or determine what effect doing so would have on enforcement, given the limited bed space for families.

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