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Judge blocks 'outrageous' mother-daughter deportation, threatens to hold Attorney General Sessions in contempt

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 8/9/2018
a group of people standing in front of a newspaper © Mark Lennihan / AP

An incensed federal judge in Washington on Thursday halted a deportation of a domestic violence survivor and her daughter after finding out the Trump administration had put them on a flight to El Salvador even though their appeal was ongoing.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan laid into a Justice Department lawyer after he learned during a hearing in Washington, D.C., that the woman – who’s only known as Carmen in court papers – had been put on a flight to her home country with her daughter hours before the hearing, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This is pretty outrageous,” Sullivan said. “That someone seeking justice in U.S. court is spirited away while her attorneys argue for her in court.”

Sullivan ordered the plane be turned around and threatened to hold the government in contempt, starting with Sessions himself. The whereabouts of Carmen and her daughter were not immediately known.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment and referred to the Department of Homeland Security. DHS did not immediately respond to emailed questions.

ACLU and government attorneys had agreed ahead of the hearing to delay the deportation of Carmen and her child until midnight Thursday so they could petition the matter in court.

Carmen and 11 co-plaintiffs represented by the ACLU are suing Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Lee Cissna and Executive Office for Immigration Review Director James McHenry over the Trump administration’s recently adopted “expedited removal” policy.

The policy instructs authorities to “generally” deny asylum to immigrants fleeing domestic violence and gang brutality. Critics have blasted the new policy as an affront to human rights and a systemic attack on immigrant women.

ACLU attorney Jennifer Chang Newell, who was present for the Thursday hearing, said she’s “sickened” by the administration’s “rush to deport as many immigrants as possible.”

Jeff Sessions wearing a suit and tie © John Amis / AP

“The Trump administration is putting these women and children in grave danger of being raped, beaten, or killed,” said Newell. “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.”

The ACLU suit, which was filed Tuesday, challenges the administration’s new interpretation of “credible fear.”

Under previous administrations, immigrants were granted a full asylum hearing in court if they could prove they had “credibly fear” of returning to their home countries because their government was “unable or unwilling” to protect them. Under the new standard, which was implemented by Sessions in June, immigrants have to prove that their government condones the violence.

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