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Judge Halts Deportation, Threatens AG Sessions



The Washington Post
Thursday, August 09, 2018

Washington — A federal judge in Washington halted a deportation in progress on Thursday and threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt after learning that the Trump administration started to remove a woman and her daughter while a court hearing appealing their deportations was underway.

“This is pretty outrageous,” U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan said after being told about the removal. “That someone seeking justice in U.S. court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her?”

“I’m not happy about this at all,” the judge continued. “This is not acceptable.”

The woman, known in court papers as Carmen, is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union. 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.

Attorneys for the civil rights organization and the Department of Justice had agreed to delay removal proceedings for Carmen and her child until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday so they could argue the matter in court.

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.

During a brief recess, she told her colleagues the pair had been taken from a family detention center in Dilley, Texas, and were headed to the airport in San Antonio for an 8:15 a.m. flight.

After granting the ACLU’s request to delay deportations for Carmen and the other plaintiffs until the lawsuit is decided, Sullivan ordered the government to “turn the plane around.”

Justice Department attorney Erez Reuveni said he had not been told the deportation was happening that morning, and could not confirm the whereabouts of Carmen and her daughter.

The ACLU said later that government attorneys informed them after the hearing that the pair was on a flight to El Salvador.

The Justice Department said they would be flown back to Texas and returned to the detention center after landing, the ACLU said.

The Justice Department declined a request for comment.