When parents are held for prosecution, their children are turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The children are then designated as “unaccompanied minors,” and the government tries to connect them to family members who are already in the U.S. Until then, children wait in shelters or are sent to federally contracted foster homes, often without parents being told exactly where they are, immigration advocates said.

It may soon become even more difficult to place children with relatives. The Department of Homeland Security is proposing immigration checks be done on all people in a household who may take in these “unaccompanied” children, which means relatives who are undocumented may be less likely to come forward.

In the meantime, space in shelters and foster homes is limited; The Washington Post reported the administration plans to open facilities at military bases to house some of the separated children.