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Judge orders migrants returned to USA in midst of deportation flight

12 August 2018
Judge orders migrants returned to USA in midst of deportation flight

A federal judge ordered the government to return an asylum-seeking mother and her daughter to the USA after the Trump administration revealed in a Thursday court hearing that they had sent the migrants to Central America while the court was still considering their case.

It all stems back to a mother, known in court filings as only "Carmen". The deported mother and daughter were en route back to the US later Thursday.

"This is pretty outrageous", U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said. "That someone seeking justice in the US court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her?"

"I'm not happy about this at all", Sullivan added, the paper said. "This is not acceptable". The plane landed in El Salvador, but Carmen and her daughter "never got off" and were flown back to the USA, according to NBC News.

Justice Department attorney Erez Reuveni said he had not been told the deportation was happening that morning, and could not confirm the whereabouts of Carmen and her daughter.

Sessions ruled in June that asylum is generally not available to people fleeing violence by private rather than government actors.

The judge's decision on Thursday, however, means plaintiffs can remain in the USA, where they are being held in detention facilities, while Sullivan considers the case.

It was a dramatic illustration of the Trump administration's zeal for deportations running up against an increasing number of court challenges against its immigration policies. Carmen's asylum request was based on threats by gang members to kill her if she didn't pay them protection money routinely.

Carmen and her daughter were not separated when they crossed the border, but their chances of remaining in the US were slim after she failed a "credible fear" test created to determine whether her asylum claim could be honored. As part of that decision, Sessions said gang and domestic violence in most cases would no longer be grounds for receiving asylum. Sessions argued that a lack of policing in a given country "cannot establish as asylum claim".

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.

Sessions" unexpected announcement negated a comparatively more vague 2014 Board of Immigration Appeals ruling that married women in developing countries "who are unable to leave their relationship" can be considered a "particular social group' for asylum purposes.

From there, Sessions has argued, asylum-seekers are typically released into the interior of the country while they await hearings, often years away. The suit said the mother suffered "two decades of horrific sexual abuse by her husband", who raped and threatened her after she moved away. But now they have to show that the government "condones" the violence or "is completely helpless" to protect them, the lawsuit says.