Judge blocks administration from deporting asylum seekers -- but the government already had two on a plane

A federal judge on Thursday erupted at the Trump administration when he learned that two asylum seekers figh...

Posted: Aug 10, 2018 8:21 AM
Updated: Aug 10, 2018 8:21 AM

A federal judge on Thursday erupted at the Trump administration when he learned that two asylum seekers fighting deportation were at that moment being deported and on a plane to El Salvador.

DC District Judge Emmet Sullivan then blocked the administration from deporting the two plaintiffs while they are fighting for their right to stay in the US -- excoriating the administration and threatening to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt.

Deportation

Immigration

Immigration, citizenship and displacement

International relations and national security

Jeff Sessions

Political Figures - US

Continents and regions

North America

Political asylum

The Americas

United States

American Civil Liberties Union

Law and legal system

Lawsuits and claims

Non-profit and NGO organizations

Trial and procedure

Central America

El Salvador

Latin America

The government raced to comply with the court's order, and by Thursday evening the immigrants had arrived back in Texas after being turned around on the ground in El Salvador.

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.

The emergency hearing in the case turned dramatic when attorneys discovered partway through the hearing that two of their clients were on a plane to El Salvador.

Lead ACLU attorney Jennifer Chang Newell told CNN after the hearing the administration had pledged Wednesday that no one in the case would be deported until at least midnight at the end of Thursday. But during a recess in the proceedings Thursday, she got an email from attorneys on the ground in Texas that her client, known by the pseudonym Carmen, and Carmen's daughter had been taken from their detention center that morning and deported. After investigating during recess, she informed government attorneys and Sullivan what had happened.

"Oh, I want those people brought back forthwith. ... I'm not asking, I'm ordering," Sullivan said upon learning what had happened, which Justice Department attorney Erez Reuveni confirmed, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Sullivan later added he was "directing the government to turn that plane around either now or when it lands, turn that plane around and bring those people back to the United States. It's outrageous."

Sullivan then threatened to hit Sessions with contempt, saying that if the immigrants weren't returned he was going to order officials to explain "why people should not be held in contempt of court, and I'm going to start with the attorney general."

The judge apparently grew visibly agitated, assuring Reuveni in court that it wasn't "personal."

"I know I'm raising my voice, but I'm extremely upset about this," the judge said. "This is not acceptable."

Sullivan continued with the hearing, which was near its end, but kept reflecting on how he was "really upset" and found it "pretty outrageous" that "somebody in the pursuit of justice ... is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her."

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of immigrants referred to only by their pseudonyms in court: Grace, Mina, Gina, Mona, Maria, Carmen and her daughter J.A.C.F. and Gio.

After the hearing, Sullivan issued an emergency order halting the deportation of any of the immigrants as he considers whether he has broader authority in the case.

Sullivan also ordered that if the two being deported were not returned, Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Lee Francis Cissna and Executive Office for Immigration Review Director James McHenry would have to appear in court and say why they should not be held in contempt.

The lawsuit brought by the ACLU is challenging a recent decision by Sessions to make it nearly impossible for victims of domestic violence and gangs to qualify for asylum in the US. That decision was followed by implementation guidance from the Department of Homeland Security that almost immediately began turning away potentially thousands of asylum seekers at the southern border.

According to their lawsuit, Carmen and her young daughter came to the US from El Salvador after "two decades of horrific sexual abuse by her husband and death threats from a violent gang." Even after Carmen moved away from her husband, he raped her, stalked her and threatened to kill her, the lawsuit states. Further, a gang held her at gunpoint in May and demanded she pay a monthly "tax" or they would kill her and her daughter. Carmen knew of people killed by their husbands after going to police and by this gang and thus fled to the US.

But at the border, the government determined after interviewing her that she did not meet the "credible fear" threshold required to pursue an asylum claim in the US, and an immigration judge upheld that decision.

The ACLU is using Carmen's story and the similar experiences of the other immigrants to challenge Sessions' ruling on asylum.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
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Panola4561105
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Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
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Jasper220848
Attala214173
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Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530988

Reported Deaths: 10978
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765291522
Mobile40971804
Madison34751503
Tuscaloosa25775452
Montgomery24329589
Shelby23431249
Baldwin21131308
Lee15884171
Calhoun14501314
Morgan14293279
Etowah13831353
Marshall12222223
Houston10567281
Elmore10061205
Limestone9960151
Cullman9664193
St. Clair9655243
Lauderdale9424241
DeKalb8830186
Talladega8223176
Walker7235277
Autauga6920108
Jackson6810112
Blount6660137
Colbert6298134
Coffee5511119
Dale4831111
Russell441138
Chilton4290112
Franklin425782
Covington4121118
Tallapoosa4027152
Escambia393376
Chambers3563123
Dallas3551151
Clarke351061
Marion3118101
Pike310877
Lawrence300298
Winston274472
Bibb260764
Geneva249977
Marengo249764
Pickens234461
Barbour230857
Hale222977
Butler215969
Fayette212362
Henry188744
Cherokee184845
Randolph180241
Monroe177440
Washington167339
Macon159150
Clay156256
Crenshaw152257
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock123041
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107228
Sumter104532
Greene92334
Choctaw60624
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