Judge orders plane carrying deported mother and child turned around, blocks more removals

 nbcnews.com  8/9/2018 7:20:19 PM 

In a federal courtroom in Washington on Thursday, a judge heard about something the Trump administration had just done that clearly angered him. The government, he learned, had deported an immigrant mother and daughter who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit the judge was hearing over asylum restrictions.

So the judge did something highly unusual: He demanded the administration turn around the plane carrying the plaintiffs to Central America and bring them back to the United States. And he ordered the government to stop removing plaintiffs in the case from the country who are seeking protection from gang and domestic violence.

The U.S. district judge, Emmet Sullivan, of the District of Columbia, was presiding over a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Gender and Refugee Studies on Tuesday. He had earlier been assured by the government in open court that no plaintiffs in the suit would be deported before midnight Friday.

The plaintiffs on the plane are identified in the lawsuit as Carmen and her minor daughter J.A.C.F., although Carmen is a pseudonym, an attorney said.

The plane was not able to turn around en route, but a Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News that the mother and daughter did not disembark in El Salvador Thursday evening and were being brought to the United States.

"Carmen and her daughter are right now somewhere in the air between Texas and El Salvador," ACLU's lead attorney in the case Jennifer Chang Newell told NBC News just after the hearing.

The judge ordered the government to turn the plane around and bring the asylum-seeking mother and child back to the US.

He said that if the situation wasn't fixed he would consider contempt proceedings — starting with the attorney general.

— ACLU (@ACLU) August 9, 2018

The lawsuit challenges a decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to exclude domestic and gang violence as reasons for immigrants to be granted asylum. The ACLU sought a stay of removal for its plaintiffs.

According to the ACLU, Sullivan had "suggested" government officials, including Sessions, be held in contempt for the deportation of the two plaintiffs and said their deportation was "unacceptable."

"In its rush to deport as many immigrants as possible, the Trump administration is putting these women and children in grave danger of being raped, beaten, or killed," Newell said.

"We are thrilled the stay of removal was issued but sickened that the government deported two of our clients — a mom and her little girl — in the early morning hours. We will not rest until our clients are returned to safety," she said.

The woman identified as Carmen had left El Salvador with her young daughter, fleeing two decades of "horrific" sexual abuse by her husband who routinely stalked and threatened her, even after they were living apart, according to the lawsuit. Carmen, a single mother, also faced imminent death threats from a notoriously violent gang, the complaint said.

If the ACLU succeeds in the lawsuit, the asylum restrictions ordered by Sessions could be deemed unlawful.

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