Judge orders migrants returned to US in midst of deportation flight


An angry federal judge on Thursday ordered a plane carrying a mother and daughter deported by the Trump administration to turn around and head back to the U.S. because they were plaintiffs in a lawsuit he was hearing over asylum restrictions.

"This is pretty outrageous", U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said after being told about the removal.

In a shocking move, Judge Sullivan then ordered that the government "turn the plane around", and bring both Carmen and her child back to the United States immediately.

The Department of Homeland Security reversed a pair of deportation orders on Thursday, returning a woman and her daughter to the United States after they landed in El Salvador.

Carmen also is a plaintiff in an ACLU lawsuit filed this week challenging a recent Justice Department policy change that aims to speed up removal of asylum-seekers who fail to prove their cases, the paper said, and that domestic and gang violence aren't reasons for getting asylum.

The mother and daughter were ordered to be deported by the DOJ after Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a decision to no longer include domestic and gang violence as reasons for people to qualify for asylum in the United States.

According to the lawsuit, the two plaintiffs on the plane were a mother and daughter.

Named in the ACLU's lawsuit are Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Lee Cissna and Executive Office for Immigration Review Director James McHenry.

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The Department of Justice is not commenting on the case nor the judges' threat to hold the attorney general in contempt. Carmen and her daughter will go back to an ICE facility in Dilly, Texas.

Jennifer Chang Newell, managing attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a statement that the administration's actions were putting immigrants in "grave danger".

"We are complying with the court's order, and upon arrival in El Salvador, the plaintiffs will not disembark and will be promptly returned to the United States", ICE spokeswoman Justine Whelan said. Carmen also alleged her husband was abusive.

Under the fast-track removal system, created in 1996, asylum seekers are interviewed to determine whether they have a "credible fear" of returning home.

Sessions and other Trump appointees have dramatically shifted how the federal government speaks about asylum, going as far as to suggest in public communications the unproven claim that asylum is a routinely abused legal loophole.

The lawsuit Carmen is involved in included 12 migrants total, three of whom are children.

The ACLU is using Carmen's story and the similar experiences of the other immigrants to challenge Sessions' ruling on asylum.

Asylum seekers previously had to show that the government in their native country was "unable or unwilling" to protect them. In the suit, Grace said her partner of 22 years, and his two gang member sons from another relationship, repeatedly beat and threatened to kill her and her children.