The chaotic process of reuniting thousands of migrant children and parents separated by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy poses great psychological risks, both short- and long-term, mental health experts said on Friday. So does holding those families indefinitely while they await legal proceedings, which could happen under the president’s new executive order.

The administration has no clear plan to reunite migrant families, which is sure to carry a psychological price for migrant parents and more than 2,300 children separated from them at the border in recent months. More than 400 are under age 12, and many are toddlers.

But the alternative of keeping those families in camps, on military bases and in other facilities for long periods of time while they work their way through the legal and asylum systems will quite likely impose its own trauma, as it did for families of Japanese descent held by the United States in internment camps during World War II.

This mass internment is distinct from the current proposal in important ways: The inmates were predominantly United States citizens, and they had committed no crime.

Yet many researchers believe the trauma to migrant families could be similar, in terms of rates of depression and post-traumatic stress.

“There are certainly parallels,” said Donna Nagata, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan whose parents met in a Utah internment camp and who has followed a large group of people who spent time in the camps.

In one study, she had 520 of them fill out extensive questionnaires, detailing aspects of their individual personalities and how they coped with the experience of mass incarceration over time.

While their experiences varied, negative effects of the camps remained. “The sansei — the adolescent and children offspring, born in the United States after the war — lived with this sense of sadness and anger over what happened to their parents, and with the realization that a portion of their lives had been taken away,” Dr. Nagata said.

Read the full article at the New York Times.