Judge Michael Duncan has said that in November he will have to give further study to the case of a deported Mexican who returned with a special permit to North Carolina in order to fight for the custody of his three children.

The magistrate said the court will have to be in session two more days in November to reach a decision on whether to restore custody to the father, even as time runs out for the Mexican Felipe Bautista Montes to remain in the country legally.

"I'm desperate, I want to go back to Mexico with my boys before Oct. 29, the date when I have to leave the country. I've fought for them so much, but the procedure has been going on for a long time. I'm still optimistic though," Montes, whom the court allows to continue unsupervised visits with the children, told Efe.

For the second time since he returned last July to the western North Carolina town of Sparta, Bautista Montes, 32, appeared in court to keep from losing custody of Isaias, 4, Adrian, 2, and Angel, 1.

This father's fight to regain custody of his boys began in December 2010 when he was deported after being nabbed for traffic violations in Sparta, where he had lived for nine years with his wife Marie.

After the deportation, Marie lost custody of the children due to economic difficulties, mental problems and drug addiction, and the youngsters were placed in temporary foster homes to be put up for adoption.

"The kids know I'm their dad and they treat me that way. I can give them a future in Mexico, but the adoptive parents are fighting to keep them," the Mexican told Efe.

The father said that if the judge, whom he considers "very fair," should rule in his favor, he plans to offer a decent life for the little ones in the state of Nuevo Leon, where he will work in walnut production.

The Mexican's case gained notoriety in early 2012 when the American organizations Presente.org and the Applied Research Center, or ARC, with headquarters in New York, launched a campaign to avoid breaking up the family.

The assigned consul, Cinthya Prida, told Efe on Saturday that the immigration attorney employed by authorities of the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh, is working on an extension of their citizen's humanitarian permit to stay in the country, which expires in 17 days.

"If that can't be arranged, we will continue offering all kinds of technical and logistic support so that Montes can speak in court via Skype (a telephone service on the Internet)," Prida said.

The immigrant's attorney, Donna Shumate, said Saturday that "the state is delaying" the process to keep the Mexican from testifying in person, though it's "a good sign" that the judge has allowed the visits between father and sons to continue.

Montes's situation is not an isolated case, according to the Applied Research report "Shattered Families," which shows that more than 5,000 children of deported or detained immigrant parents are currently in foster homes.

Last month a Missouri judge scratched the parental rights of Guatemalan migrant Encarnacion Bail Romero, detained in 2007 during an immigration raid at a chicken-processing plant, and ordered her son put up for adoption.

Montes wants his children to live with him in the modest house in the northern state of Tamaulipas that he shares with aunts, uncles and cousins.

However, the North Carolina DSS has argued that the children, who are U.S. citizens, would be better off in this country in the custody of other people. EFE