SAN DIEGO — With more than 1,800 migrant families reunified under a court-ordered deadline, the question turns to how fast immigration authorities can deport those with final orders of removal.

It looks increasingly likely those families will remain in limbo, at least for now.

Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union have asked U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego for a seven-day reprieve for all parents to consult with their children and attorneys to determine if there is any further recourse. That could result in a parent deciding to leave a child in the U.S. to fight an asylum case alone.

But the judge seemed reluctant to grant such a blanket delay. Instead he focused on a narrower subset of parents who might have just been reunited in the last day or so, or the 120 parents who waived their right to reunification but may have been confused.

About 300 reunified families are being detained in a two facilities in Texas, and 1,100 families have been released on parole while their immigration cases are pending, government attorneys in the San Diego case said. Officials are also detaining 145 parents, but without their children because of ineligibility such as criminal records.

About 1,000 families have executable orders of removal.

But the families at imminent risk of being deported are the ones in detention with travel documents already prepared – a group that government lawyers could not immediately quantify during a hearing Friday.

Sabraw stopped family deportations nearly two weeks ago to hear more argument on the issue, and now he expects to rule over the weekend.

The hearing Friday was the first after the one-month deadline Sabraw had set to reunify the more than 2,500 children ages 5 and older separated at the border. About 57 children under 5 were reunited under an earlier deadline.

“The government deserves great credit,” Sabraw said. But he also blamed the government for its lack of foresight and communication in implementing its hard-line stance on criminally prosecuting illegal border crossings, saying “the government is at fault for losing several hundred parents in the process.”

The parents he referred to include the more than 400 who are believed to have been deported without their children and were not reunified by the deadline. At least 35 other parents have been released from immigration custody into the U.S. and still have not been found.

Those parents will be the focus of the next chapter in the legal challenge to the family separations. Sabraw urged the government to identify and find those parents as quickly as possible for reunification.

How that will happen, however, is the subject of dispute.

The ACLU lawyers have offered to use a vast network of advocacy groups to help find the parents around the world – mostly in Central America – but are asking for as much detail as possible from government immigration files to aid in the detective work. Those might include the name of a relative, an address or a destination mentioned to a caseworker.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Scott Stewart countered that a court order to produce such data would be overly burdensome and detract from the effort to reunify families.

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