Judge orders plane carrying deported mother, daughter to turn around

A federal judge on Thursday ordered a plane carrying two undocumented immigrants who had just been deported to El Salvador be turned around because they are witnesses in a lawsuit against the Trump administration.

The judge also threatened hold to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of court, according to an ACLU attorney, although an order requiring a response to a potential contempt charge hasn't yet been issued.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan took the extraordinary step of holding two members of President Donald Trump's cabinet personally accountable for an immigration proceeding after Sullivan learned while a hearing in his court was underway Thursday that government officials put the mother and daughter on an airplane.

The pair were among 12 plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenging changes in asylum policies ordered by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, which implements deportations, did not respond to questions about why Carmen and her daughter were removed from the country.

The ACLU asked for a delay on deportation for Carmen and her daughter, as well as 10 other people included the lawsuit who were denied asylum.

The ACLU was arguing their case in court and believed the Trump administration had agreed to keep them in the US until midnight tonight. It challenges a recent tightening on standards for seeking US asylum, which makes it far more hard for those fleeing domestic or gang violence to win the right to remain in the United States.

But lead ACLU attorney Jennifer Chang Newell, who was participating in the court hearing via phone from her office in California, received an email during the hearing that said the mother and daughter were being deported.

But during a court recess, ACLU lawyers found out that the woman and her daughter had already been moved from the South Texas Family Residential Center - the nation's largest detention facility for illegal immigrants and other potential deportees.

The mother and daughter were ordered to be deported by the DOJ after Attorney General Jeff Sessions chose to no longer include domestic and gang violence as reasons for people to qualify for asylum in the United States.

As Carmen is with a child, and, therefore, can not be held in a typical facility for adults or separated from her child under current policy, it is likely they will be released into the American interior, free, despite having failed their credible fear determination. Carmen also alleged her husband was abusive.

The fast-track removal system, created in 1996, has asylum-seekers interviewed to determine if they have a "credible fear" of returning to their home countries, the paper said, adding that those who pass get a full hearing in immigration court. As part of that decision, Sessions said gang and domestic violence in most cases would no longer be grounds for receiving asylum.

From there, Sessions has argued, asylum-seekers are typically released into the interior of the country while they await hearings, often years away.

  • Rogelio Becker