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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions launched a 'zero-tolerance' campaign against illegal immigration earlier in the year. Image via Flickr/Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0)

On Thursday, a federal judge blocked the deportation of eight asylum-seekers who’d been removed from the United States after their claims of suffering from gang violence and domestic abuse were canned by the Trump administration.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said it was unacceptable that the case’s two plaintiffs—a mother and daughter—had been placed on a flight back to Central America.

Sullivan, writes POLITICO, ordered the flight to be rerouted to the United States. The two women were women were being deported to El Salvador, a small country suffering from high homicide rates and a burgeoning gang crisis.

CNN says the judge agreed the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that the plaintiffs shouldn’t be deported while their cases are still pending.

Lead ACLU attorney Jennifer Chang Newell told CNN that the administration had told her the two women wouldn’t be deported until ‘at least midnight’ on Thursday. But midway through the day’s proceedings, Newell received an e-mail from lawyers in Texas that her clients had been taken out of a detention center and were being flown back to El Salvador. She promptly informed government attorneys and the judge of the new and unexpected development.

“Oh, I want these people brought back forthwith. […] I’m not asking, I’m ordering,” Sullivan said upon being informed of the duo’s deportation.

He later said he was “directing the government to turn that plane around now or when it lands, turn that plane around and bring those people back to the United States. It’s outrageous.”

Then-candidate Donald Trump speaking at a 2015 rally. Image via Flickr/user: Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0)

Sullivan’s anger was apparent—he threatened to launch an investigation into the Justice Department if the immigrants weren’t returned, demanding that officials explain “why people should not be held in contempt of court, and I’m going to start with the attorney general.”

The judge assured government attorneys that his anger wasn’t “personal,” but kept criticizing the situation. Sullivan said he found it “pretty outrageous” that “somebody in the pursuit of justice … is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her.”

After the hearing, CNN reports that Sullivan ordered that other immigrants involved in a larger case not be deported.

The mother whose deportation was stopped had come to the United States after suffering “two decades of horrific sexual abuse by her husband and death threats from a violent gang.” The plaintiff, known by the pseudonym ‘Carmen,’ claims she tried to leave her spouse. Even after moving out of their home, he allegedly raped her, stalked her and threatened to kill her.

Months afterward, Carmen says she was approached by a gang which demanded she pay a monthly “tax.” If she didn’t comply, the criminals threatened to murder her and her daughter.

But at the border, officials said she didn’t meet the “credible fear” criteria for asylum-seekers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department are trying to limit asylum applications for persons fleeing domestic abuse and gang violence.

Sources

Judge blocks administration from deporting asylum seekers — but the government already had two on a plane

Judge blocks deportation of eight asylum seekers claiming to flee violence

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