A federal judge halted a deportation its tracks on Thursday after learning the mother-daughter pair being sent back to El Salvador was in the middle of their asylum appeal trial. According to the Washington Post, the judge has threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt.
“This is pretty outrageous,” U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said. “That someone seeking justice in U.S. court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her?”
Recently, Sessions changed the policy on allowing victims of domestic abuse and gang violence to qualify for asylum. The American Civil Liberties Union is disputing the change and filed a lawsuit on behalf of the mother, called Carmen in court papers.
Carmen fled El Salvador in June with her daughter, claiming they received violent threats from gang members. Some of Carmen’s coworkers had already been murdered and her husband was abusive.
The Justice Department and attorneys agreed to delay the court proceedings for the mother-daughter pair until later that night, but despite the decision, an attorney on the case received word that Carmen and her daughter were already at an airport ready to be deported.
That’s when Judge Sullivan gave the order to “turn that plane around” and stop the deportation.
“I’m not happy about this at all,” Sullivan said. “This is not acceptable.”
The plane landed in El Salvador, but Carmen and her child were allowed to return to the United States.
“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,” said Eunice Lee, who is co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the case. “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 lawsuit Carmen is involved in included 12 migrants total, three of whom are children. Two of the children and their mothers have already been deported.