U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia ordered the government to temporarily stop future deportations of all witnesses in the American Civil Liberties Union's lawsuit against the federal government for revoking asylum criteria that includes people saying they are in danger of domestic or gang violence in their home country.
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.
"This is pretty outrageous", the judge told the Washington Post. 'I'm also directing the government to turn that plane around, either now or when it lands. A Department of Homeland Security official later told CNN that the two would be returned "promptly" to the U.S. The ACLU lead attorney, Jennifer Chang Newell, received email during the hearing that alerted her to the active deportation of the pair. 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 judge imposed a halt Thursday on deporting Carmen, her daughter and six other plaintiffs. Instead they were flown back to Houston.
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 lawsuit asks the judge to invalidate Sessions' June 11 decision to restrict the kinds of cases that qualify for asylum.
Sullivan, who sits on the USA court in the District of Columbia, threatened to hold Sessions in contempt of court. The government agreed that Carmen and her daughter "would not be removed prior to that time".
What about the ACLU lawsuit?It challenges a recent policy change by the Department of Justice that aims to expedite the removal of asylum seekers who fail to prove their cases and excludes domestic and gang violence as justifications for granting asylum in the United States.
From there, Sessions has argued, asylum-seekers are typically released into the interior of the country while they await hearings, often years away. Many disappear instead of showing up.
"The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes - such as domestic violence or gang violence - or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, can not itself establish an asylum claim", Sessions wrote at the time. The case is part of an ongoing legal battle over asylum claims.