U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan blocked a deportation on Thursday when he discovered that a mother and daughter were in the process of being removed from the U.S., despite the fact that a court hearing to appeal the deportation orders had been set.
The mother, who is referred to as Carmen in the court documents, is involved with a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—which President Trump recently deemed responsible for reuniting migrant families—against the Justice Department’s recent decision to hasten the deportation of asylum seekers, including those escaping domestic and gang violence.
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“This is pretty outrageous,” the judge told the Washington Post. “That someone seeking justice in U.S. court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her?”
The same report revealed that both the ACLU and Justice Department had come to an agreement to hold the deportation court proceedings until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, but then Jennifer Chang Newell, the ACLU’s attorney, received an email during the delay period stating that the mother and daughter were being taken to San Antonio for an early morning flight to El Salvador.
“It must have been absolutely terrifying for them to think they would be returning to a country where they raised very credible claims of persecution and death,” Eunice Lee—co-counsel to the mother and daughter—told the Washington Post. “It’s outrageous to me that while we were working around the clock, filing briefings for this case’s early morning hearing, that people in the government were actively arranging for Carmen’s deportation.”
The two did land in El Salvador after their forced removal from the U.S., but per the ACLU’s efforts, did not disembark from the plane and were flown back to the U.S. immediately.
The Justice Department has yet to comment on the incident, but an infuriated Judge Sullivan has since threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt for the attempted deportation, which he says is “unacceptable.”