A federal judge has halted a deportation in progress and threatened to hold attorney general Jeff Sessions in contempt if the mother and daughter are not returned to the US.
US District Judge Emmet G Sullivan, of Washington, learned in court that the two plaintiffs in a lawsuit before him were being removed from the United States and confirmed later that they were on a plane heading to Central America.
He said any delay in bringing them back would be intolerable.
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
If they fail to comply, the judge said, Mr Sessions, Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other senior Homeland Security officials would have to convince him not to hold them in contempt of court.
The Department of Homeland Security was bringing the pair back to the United States on Thursday after the plane landed in El Salvador.
The mother and daughter did not disembark in the Central American country.
“This is pretty outrageous,” Judge Sullivan said in court, according to The Washington Post.
“That someone seeking justice in US court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her?”
“I’m not happy about this at all,” the judge said, according to the Post.
“This is not acceptable.”
Hours before we'd be in court to argue on their behalf, the government pulled two of our clients — a mom and young child — out of their detention rooms and put them on a plane to El Salvador, where they had fled horrific sexual violence and death threats. https://t.co/Z0m6p0Lgf5— ACLU 🗳 (@ACLU) August 9, 2018
The woman – identified in court as Carmen – is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed this week against the administration by the American Civil Liberties Union over efforts to prevent immigrants from seeking asylum because of domestic and gang violence in their home countries.
The lawsuit asks the judge to invalidate Mr Sessions’s June 11 decision to restrict the kinds of cases that qualify for asylum.
The judge imposed a halt on Thursday on deporting Carmen, her daughter and six other plaintiffs.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the judge’s threat of contempt.
- Press Association