In a federal courtroom in Washington on Thursday, a federal judge heard about something the Trump administration had just done that clearly angered him. The government, he learned, had just deported an immigrant mother and daughter who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit the judge was hearing over family separations.
So the judge did something highly unusual: He demanded the administration turn around the plane carrying the plaintiffs to Central America and bring them back to the United States. And he ordered the government to stop removing people from the country who are seeking protection from gang and domestic violence.
The U.S. district judge, Emmet Sullivan, was presiding over a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. He had earlier been assured by the government in open court that no plaintiffs in the suit would be deported before midnight Friday.
The ACLU lawsuit had challenged a decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to exclude domestic and gang violence as reasons for immigrants to be granted asylum. The ACLU sought a stay of removal for its plaintiffs.
According to the ACLU, Sullivan had “suggested” government officials, including Sessions, be held in contempt for the deportation of the two plaintiffs and said their deportation was “unacceptable”.
“In its rush to deport as many immigrants as possible, the Trump administration is putting these women and children in grave danger of being raped, beaten, or killed,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, managing attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and the attorney who argued the ACLU case.
“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,” she said.