By Brian M. Rosenthal
December 7, 2015 Updated: December 7, 2015 8:41pm

A federal judge said Monday he would not immediately act on a lawsuit filed by Texas state officials to block Syrian refugees, removing the last potential obstacle for 21 Syrians who were scheduled to arrive in Houston and Dallas this week.

U.S. District Judge David Godbey, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, informed lawyers involved with the case in a private conference call that he would like more legal briefs from both sides by Jan. 12, and would not issue a ruling before then.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who last week withdrew a request for a temporary restraining order to block the refugees, still had sought a hearing by Wednesday to discuss how much information the federal government had to share with the state about the people being resettled.

"We are certainly happy that the judge did not grant the state's request for an emergency order," said Rebecca Robertson of the ACLU of Texas, which is representing the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit helping to bring the family to Dallas and which, along with the federal government, was sued by the state.

Robertson and other refugee resettlement officials, as well as the federal government, declined to say whether two six-person Syrian families had arrived as scheduled Monday in Houston and Dallas, citing security concerns.

Nabil Kalo, who lives in the Dallas apartment complex where the refugees had been set to live, said he had been told Monday that the trip was proceeding as planned.

The day passed without fireworks, as Gov. Greg Abbott and other politicians did not acknowledge the planned arrival of the refugees. The Republican said nearly a month ago that he opposed the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Texas due to security concerns inflamed by the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which were carried out by terrorists thought to have ties to the Syria-based Islamic State.

About 30 other governors took similar positions, but Texas was the first state to sue to stop refugees.

Paxton said in a statement that the talk with the judge had led the federal government to agree to provide the state with more advance notice of plans to settle refugees in Texas.

"The Obama administration contends they have no duty to share with states any information on refugees," the GOP attorney general said. "As a result of our lawsuit, the administration has been instructed otherwise."

Still, the conference call largely was seen as a setback for the state.

The development came on the same day it was revealed that eight Syrians whose detention at the Texas-Mexico border last month raised fears of a Muslim terrorist invasion actually were Christians seeking asylum from religious persecution.

The group of two men, their wives and their four children, who turned themselves at the Laredo port of entry still are being held, according to their lawyer, Jonathan Ryan, of the nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, who called the detention illegal and said the families had been separated by gender.

"These families have all been found by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to not be any security risk and have shown that they have a credible reason to believe they'd face persecution in their home country, primarily because they're Christian, and, yet, they continue to be detained," said Ryan, who said the federal government has said only that it is continuing to hold them due to "law enforcement interest."

A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that the families still were being held, but would not elaborate.

"ICE makes custody determinations on a case-by-case basis," the spokesperson said. "ICE is currently evaluating these cases."

Ryan, who would not say how the Syrians got to Mexico from the Middle East, said he soon would launch a petition asking the federal government to release them from the detention centers.

He specifically asked for the support of Gov. Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who has proposed allowing in Christians fleeing Syria, but not Muslims.

Neither Abbott nor Cruz would comment Monday.

Ryan said the asylum seekers were optimistic, however. "Right now their biggest hope is to be reunited as families by Christmas," he said.