US migrants: Judge orders deportation plane turnaround

Evarado Alatorre
Agosto 11, 2018

A federal judge threatened on Thursday to hold top Trump administration officials in contempt of court if the government does not bring back a mother and daughter who were put on a plane to El Salvador at the same time that he was hearing arguments in court about why the family should be allowed to stay in the U.S.

The lawsuit, involving a dozen asylum-seekers - Carmen and her daughter, the eight still in custody, and four others who have also already been removed - was filed Tuesday by the ACLU and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.

"We are complying with the court's requests, and upon arrival in El Salvador, the plaintiffs will not disembark and will be promptly returned to the United States", a Department of Homeland Security official told CNN.

When informed, the Bill Clinton-appointed Judge Sullivan became outraged.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department made it more hard for immigrants claiming to be victims of domestic or gang violence to get asylum.

Sullivan agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union that the immigrants they are representing in a federal lawsuit should not be deported while their cases are pending.

"I'm not happy about this at all", he continued, adding it was "not acceptable".

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U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said the government appeared to have "spirited away" the woman and her child.

"Carmen and her daughter are right now somewhere in the air between Texas and El Salvador", ACLU lead attorney in the case Jennifer Chang Newell told NBC. The plane landed in El Salvador, but Carmen and her daughter "never got off" and were flown back to the US, according to NBC News.

The order issued Thursday stated that the defendants, including Sessions, Nielsen, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Director Lee Francis Cissna and Executive Office of Immigration Review Director James McHenry, "shall return "Carmen" and her daughter to the United States FORTHWITH". The mother and daughter were ordered to be deported by the DOJ after Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a decision to no longer include domestic and gang violence as reasons for people to qualify for asylum in the United States. Several co-workers at the factory where Carmen worked had been murdered, and her husband is also abusive, the records state. "It's outrageous to me that while we were working around-the-clock filing briefings for this case's early morning hearing that people in the government were actively arranging for Carmen's deportation".

The Justice Department declined to comment on the judge's threat of contempt.

The lawsuit seeks a stay of removal for immigrants who, the ACLU argues, could face "grave danger of being raped, beaten, or killed" in their home countries if they are forced to return to them.

A "credible fear" interview is a threshold screening that determines whether there is a "significant possibility" that an immigrant could show they are eligible for asylum in a full hearing with evidence, witnesses, and appeals.

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