In a court document, the government said it may need 24 months to review 47,000 cases of children separated from their parents at the border. At least 2,700 children are still waiting to be reunited.
The administration of US President Donald Trump revealed in a court filing late on Friday that it could take up to two years to reunite every family that has been separated at the country's border with Mexico.
"Defendants estimate that identifying all possible children ... would take at least 12 months, and possibly up to 24 months," the government wrote.
Last month, a federal judge in San Diego had increased the number of migrant families the administration is required to reunite following a class-action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
According to the Justice Department, it has to review about 47,000 cases, which could mean reuniting far more than the 2,700 children already known to be in government care waiting for their parents to be located and brought to them.
Policy leads to logistical nightmare
Despite targeting families for a relatively brief amount of time, the effects of Trump's "zero tolerance policy" are likely to be extensive. Journalists and activists have documented the psychological trauma experienced by young children separated from their parents, not to mention the public funds required to care and house the children until family members are found.
Lee Gelernt, the ACLU's lead attorney on the case, said on Saturday that his group strongly opposed the government's plan to resolve the problem by means of data analysis, statistics and some manual review over the next two years.
"The government was able to quickly gather resources to tear these children away from their families and now they need to gather the resources to fix the damage," Gelernt said.
es/jm (AP, Reuters)