U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington, D.C., threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in contempt if they fail to return to the U.S. a mother and daughter seeking asylum. The immigrants were deported ahead of a scheduled hearing with the court on Thursday, NPR reports. Emmet Sullivan was angry after being told the asylum seekers had been deported and were on a plane out of the U.S. while a government attorney was telling him they wouldn’t be deported before midnight. “This is pretty outrageous,” Sullivan said, “Somebody in pursuit of justice in a United States court is just — is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her?”
Sullivan also blocked the Trump administration from deporting eight other immigrants in detention who are part of the same lawsuit against the government for allegedly wrongfully rejecting their claims for asylum. The judge had scheduled Thursday’s emergency hearing on the motion to block the deportation after learning of their imminent removal. Despite the government’s guarantee, Sullivan learned from the American Civil Liberties Union that the two had been removed from the Dilley South Texas Family Residential Center. It wasn’t until after the hearing that the government confirmed in an email that the two plaintiffs “were, in fact, on an airplane while the Court was hearing arguments” on their case. The lawsuit involving a group of asylum-seekers still in custody and others already deported argues the administration is wrongly rejecting asylum claims based on domestic abuse and gang violence. The ACLU is asking the court to invalidate a Sessions order that most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence cannot qualify for asylum.
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