Attorneys and immigration advocates are questioning whether the parents fully understood what they were asked and are hoping a court hearing Tuesday will provide clarity.
This spring, President Donald Trump's administration launched a "zero tolerance" prosecution policy that essentially required separating children from parents as they crossed the border.
Most of the reunifications in the coming days will occur in Karnes, Texas, the government said.
In a status conference before U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego, the government said 1,637 parents have been ruled "eligible" for reunification and that nearly all of these mothers and fathers are expected to be back with their children by Thursday. About 380 additional children were discharged from government custody through other circumstances, some to parents and others to sponsors. That's hardly evidence that the administration's practice of family separation caused any drops in attempted illegal border crossings. But their children, whose cases are separate, may not.
As of Tuesday, there were 1,012 parents reunified with their children in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.
More than 230 family units are now detained at family residential centers, a government official told reporters.
During a July 24 status conference on the family reunification effort, government lawyers said 1,012 of the almost 3,000 children had been reunited with their parents and another 625 would be deemed eligible by Thursday. The form was written in both English and Spanish, but she said, some parents only had it read to them in Spanish.
Some waited up to a week, Carson said, and were not allowed access to showers, phones or religious services, while efforts stalled to return their children.
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"There may be 463, there may be more, it's not certain", he said. Some of the parents arrived with little paperwork. The ACLU has filed a number of affidavits to the court alleging numerous parents did not know what they had signedwhen they relinquished their right to be reunified.
"Otherwise you'll have millions of people flowing up and just overtaking the country and we're not letting that happen", Trump said in June.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw has indicated some leeway given the enormity of the job.
Drew Anthony Smith via Getty Images Dozens of families have been reunited this week at the Karnes County Residential Center in South Texas. After two separate deadlines in 30 days to reunite thousands of children affected by this policy, the fallout from the family separations is far from over. The government said 711 children remained in government custody away from their parents as of Thursday afternoon.
And we heard a mother tell us how her relationship with her 8-year-old daughter would never be the same again, because immigration officials lied to the daughter and told her her mother had abandoned her and she would live in a shelter until she turned 18.
Officials declined to comment on what efforts, if any, would be made on behalf of children whose parents have been deported already, though they said some parents had voluntarily chosen to leave their children behind.
"These parents urgently need consultations with lawyers, so that they do not mistakenly strand their children in the United States", the ACLU attorneys wrote in the court filing. The Trump administration is trying to sweep them under the rug by unilaterally picking and choosing who is eligible for reunification.
Michelle Brané, director of migrant rights and justice for the Women's Refugee Commission, said that she had received credible information that the Office of Refugee Resettlement was scrambling to locate the deported parents - but that because the government had kept no records, the effort was proving hard.