Judge orders government to turn around deportation plane

Judge blocks asylum seekers from deportation

Judge orders government to turn around deportation plane

A federal judge stopped an in-progress deportation Thursday and threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt after learning a plane carrying a mother and daughter was airborne and headed to El Salvador - all while a hearing appealing their deportations was taking place, the Washington Post reported.

But the ACLU said they had learned during Thursday's emergency hearing that the mother and daughter had already been put on a flight back to El Salvador by United States authorities.

The woman, known in court papers as Carmen, is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU is asking the court to invalidate a decision by Sessions that says most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence can not qualify for asylum.

Carmen is a pseudonym for the woman who, along with her daughter, was seeking asylum because of domestic abuse in El Salvador.

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.

"The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes - such as domestic violence or gang violence - or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, can not itself establish an asylum claim", Sessions wrote at the time.

From there, they learned, she may already have been taken to the San Antonio airport and put on an 8:15 s.m. flight back to Central America.

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Sources say the government complied with the judges' order and Carmen and her daughter never got off the plane in El Salavador.

"Carmen and her daughter are right now somewhere in the air between Texas and El Salvador", ACLU lead attorney in the case Jennifer Chang Newell told NBC.

The mother and daughter were part of a case filed by the ACLU and the Centre for Gender and Refugee Studies on behalf of 12 mothers and children who said they had fled violence but were at risk of deportation.

But at the border, the government determined after interviewing her that she did not meet the "credible fear" threshold required to pursue an asylum claim in the USA, and an immigration judge upheld that decision.

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

The ACLU represents 12 people in the suit, including three children, from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, who had entered the USA and sought asylum, but were been denied in a preliminary interview used to establish a "credible fear" of returning home.

"The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes - such as domestic violence or gang violence - or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, can not itself establish an asylum claim", Sessions wrote at the time.

Sessions has led efforts by the Trump Administration to crack down on illegal immigration, including the adoption of a zero tolerance policy that briefly included separating immigrant parents from their children while they were in USA detention.

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