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story.lead_photo.caption Women and children wait inside a bus station Friday after they were processed and released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in McAllen, Texas.

McALLEN, Texas — The nation's top border enforcement official acknowledged Monday that authorities have abandoned, for now, the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy toward immigrant families after the president ordered an end to the separation of parents and children who cross the southern border.

The comments by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan came shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the administration's tactics in a speech in Nevada and asserted that many children were brought to the border by violent gang members.

Together, their remarks added to the nationwide confusion as mothers and fathers struggled to reunite families that were split up by the government and sometimes sent to different parts of the country.

A mother from Guatemala wiped tears from her eyes Monday as she told reporters in El Paso, Texas, about her 4-year-old son being taken away after they crossed the border.

The boy ended up at a shelter in New York. When the mother contacted a social worker to speak with her son, she was told that the child was angry and didn't want to talk because he believed his mother had abandoned him.

The mother was one of 32 parents released from federal custody while they pursue asylum cases. Speaking Spanish and all wearing ankle bracelets, the parents said they have not been told when they will see their sons and daughters again.

Addressing reporters in Texas, McAleenan said he stopped sending cases of parents charged with illegally entering the country to prosecutors after President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week to cease the separations.

The commissioner and Sessions insisted that the administration's policy remains in effect but the cases cannot be prosecuted because parents cannot be separated from their children. McAleenan said he is working on a plan to resume prosecutions.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted that the administration's reversal was only temporary because the government is running out of resources.

"We're going to run out of space," she said. "We're going to run out of resources to keep people together."

Speaking at a school-safety conference in Reno, Sessions cast the children as victims of a "broken immigration system" and urged Congress to act.

While hundreds of protesters rallied outside a hotel-casino, the attorney general said more than 80 percent of children crossing the border arrive alone, without parents or guardians, and are "often sent with a paid smuggler. We can only guess how many never make it to our border during that dangerous journey."

He saud the MS-13 gang "is recruiting children who were sent here as unaccompanied minors, and some are brought to help replenish the gang. And they are terrorizing immigrant schools and communities from Los Angeles to Louisville to Long Island to Boston. They are able to do so because we do not have a secure southwest border."

He said five children had been found at the border carrying a combined 35 pounds of fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid drug blamed for an epidemic of overdose deaths nationwide.

Drug cartels, Sessions said, "take advantage of our generosity and ... use children to smuggle their drugs into our country as well."

Just outside the building where Sessions spoke, more than 200 protesters opposed to the administration's immigration policies blocked a busy road. The coalition of civil rights, religious and union activists carried signs and drums and were joined by a mariachi band. Some sat in a busy roadway for while police diverted traffic around them.

No arrests were reported.

McAleenan's remarks follow an announcement last week by the federal public defender's office in El Paso that federal prosecutors would no longer bring criminal charges against parents entering the U.S. if they have their child with them.

Amid the confusion, some Democratic members of Congress reiterated their frustrations that the Trump administration had not released its plan for reunifying families.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut was among those who toured a shelter at the Tornillo border crossing in West Texas.

"I think there is very, very powerful consensus on both sides of the aisle that reunification should be done immediately," Blumenthal said. "These stories are gut-wrenching and heartbreaking of children 6 and 7 years old, separated from their parents, not know where they are and the parents not knowing where their children are."

U.S. defense officials said the administration had chosen two military bases in Texas to house detained migrants. The officials identified the bases as Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base.

As many as 2,300 children were separated from their migrant parents from the time the administration adopted the zero-tolerance policy until June 9, officials have said.

The temporary shelter at Tornillo was close to its 360-person capacity. Reporters were allowed Monday to briefly visit the shelter, where more than 320 children ages 13 to 17 are being held in air conditioned tents. A facility administrator told reporters that the main complaint he hears from children on site is that the tents get too cold sometimes.

About half were from Guatemala, and 23 of the children had been separated from adults who accompanied them across the border.

Reporters were not allowed to enter any tents holding children. Two girls who stopped briefly in front of reporters said that they were doing well.

The exact process to reunite families has been unclear because migrants are first stopped by Customs and Border Protection. Then children are transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, while adults are detained through Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is under the Department of Homeland Security.

Justice Department officials have asked a federal judge to amend a class-action settlement that governs how children are treated in immigration custody. Right now, children can only be detained with their families for 20 days. Trump administration officials are seeking to detain them together indefinitely as their cases progress.

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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  • tngilmer
    June 25, 2018 at 3:03 p.m.

    Fire this clown.

  • TimberTopper
    June 25, 2018 at 3:32 p.m.

    It appears the usual Trump logistics program is being used, that of the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, and the reason is a Trump Trademark. Neither can be trusted.

  • mrcharles
    June 25, 2018 at 4:25 p.m.

    Family values are different than the ancient book values-now. As we learn more and say OMG that is horrific and vulgar and barbaric, civilization moves on.

    A species who doesnt take care of children will go the way of the 99% of that great experiment by the creation entity.

    I have checked and none of the children are amalakites or the other bad bad non chosen people, so killing them is out of the question .

    Go ahead and hate your neighbour
    Go ahead and cheat a friend
    Do it in the name of heaven
    Justify it in the end
    There won't be any trumpets blowing
    Come the judgement day

    I most humbly ask both delta123 and whipper, those two of the right that seem to be of the softer side to the ancient book, does your ancient book condone the right wing ideas of treatment to immigrants and/or children? You of course have only your soul to justify your answer and your own judgment day. I wait to be instructed of your theology, as a man can never learn too much. Your inner self knows immediately the answer so be honest with your self and do not contemplate what the right answer is of your tribe but this warm feeling in your bosom ewe all talk about to immediately come forth Jeremiah you know could not hold in his pronouncements.

    I give you a sound hint...... in the epistle of St Paul to the Philippians , chapter 4:8.

  • DoubleBlind
    June 25, 2018 at 5:12 p.m.

    “Sessions cast the children as victims of a broken immigration system and urged Congress to act.” I’m going to give Sessions more than partial credit for this statement. I would qualify it by saying ‘the children are victims of the Trump admin’s attempts to EXPLOIT a broken a immigration system.’ There is absolutely no question US immigration policy is FUBAR. (In case anyone doesn’t know what this stands for, it’s F-ed Up Beyond All Recognition.) Trump needs to stand on Congressional necks to fix it rather than suggesting torture as an alternative. I would argue he would have FAR more leverage showing footage of unchecked borders with the caption, “They have kids with them...what can we do? We’re the US of A, not animals. Message to Congress: FIX THIS!”

  • DoubleBlind
    June 25, 2018 at 5:18 p.m.

    In the scenario I suggest above, Trump would come across as a benevolent leader rather than a dictator who separates parents from children and places each in separate cages, perhaps never to reunite. He’s far too focused on being ‘tough’ which is only translating to ‘mean.’

  • DoubleBlind
    June 25, 2018 at 6:26 p.m.

    I would advocate that if Trump actually wanted to tie a pretty ribbon around a 2020 reelection, he would call a presscon, state that he has deeply contemplated immigration issues and the plight of immigrants, and he has decided that parents and children belong together, that Dreamers are not responsible for their situation and should be welcomed and that he is committed to supporting comprehensive immigration reform if drafted by Congress. Details to follow. It puts the onus on Congress, where it belongs.

  • skeptic1
    June 25, 2018 at 6:45 p.m.

    Hmmm...oddly glaring in the picture are mothers/parents holding their children obviously not separated. We need to reunite all parents and children and send them home. If the message gets sent that if you come here illegally you will be immediately sent back maybe they'll think twice before risking the lives if their children.

  • JMort69
    June 25, 2018 at 6:46 p.m.

    First let me say that I am an Independent and have no partisan bone to pick. I also have a cousin by marriage who immigrated from Eastern Europe a number of years ago. It was hard, took a long time and was expensive. If she had to go through the process, I think everyone should. But, this ain't working. So, here are a couple of ideas. A wall is not topographically feasible in many areas along the border. People screaming for one clearly have not been to these places. But, drones are possible. Why not spend our money buying them and hiring people to operate and monitor them? It would surely be cheaper and, no matter what Trump says, you and I will pay for whatever security we implement. Also, we need to stop these migrations at the source. And, I don't mean throw money at these corrupt governments. They will just steal it and nothing will change. We have deployed troops all over the world. Why can't we deploy them on the same land mass on which we live? If you had a choice to walk across a continent, with a little child, headed for an unknown future, or staying home, which would you choose? I have personally seen some of these impoverished areas. The people have dead eyes, no hope in sight. And, the governments have been corrupt since they were first formed. Clearly, those in power in these countries do not want change. And, clearly, our Congress is going to do what they do best,nothing. Since this president thinks he has unilateral power, let him use it. If our special ops troops were in El Salvador with our weapons, it wouldn't take long to eradicate MS-13. Many of the issues these migrants have would then be solved. We say we can't police the world, but we consistently have tried. How many years have we spent in Afghanistan and there is still no end in sight? Central and South America are far closer to our borders than Afghanistan. I read that, in Mexico, 113 politcians who opposed the drug cartels have already been killed, just this year. If we don't do something, we are going to have a failed state right on our border. If you think we have a mess now, just wait until that happens. As in all matters, there is a middle road. If you will climb out of your confining political party boxes, you will see that too. It is in that middle road where solutions will be found.