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A Judge Just Ordered the Trump Administration to Turn a Plane Carrying Deported Immigrants Around and Threatened Jeff Sessions With Contempt

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 30: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (L) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (R) attend the Religious Liberty Summit at the Department of Justice July 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. Rosenstein has recently been cited by the House Freedom caucus as a potential impeachment target for allegedly not releasing documents requested by members of Congress. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A federal judge in Washington D.C. threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of court on Thursday after he learned the Department of Justice tried to deport a mother and daughter who were awaiting a court date for an appeal of a prior deportation order.


U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan scolded Sessions, saying the decision to subvert due process was "outrageous."

The ACLU announced Sullivan's ruling on Twitter.

Sessions and the Justice Department are the defendants in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this week, which alleges the federal government's new policy of rejecting asylum claims based on domestic and gang violence is "blocking thousands of migrants from seeking asylum in the United States," according to the Washington Post.

"Without an injunction, Plaintiffs and thousands of other immigrants like them desperately seeking safety will be unlawfully deported to places where they fear they will be raped, kidnapped, beaten, and killed," the complaint says.

The woman in question, "Carmen," had her case delayed until 11:59 P.M. Thursday night, but was escorted onto a plane along with her daughter Thursday morning in San Antonio, Texas to be thrown out of the country.

"This is pretty outrageous," Sullivan said. "That someone seeking justice in U.S. court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her?"

The judge added:

I’m not happy about this at all... this is not acceptable.

Sullivan then ordered Sessions to "turn the plane around" as part of his decision to stay Carmen's removal. Justice Department attorney Erez Reuveni told the court he didn't know where Carmen and her daughter were or whether they had yet left the United States.

Lawyers for the federal government later confirmed the pair were on their way to El Salvador and that the plane had been instructed to return, per the court's order.

The ACLU said the "disregard for commitments made to the court and the life or death circumstances that these immigrant women and children are facing is beyond unacceptable."

The ACLU responded to the court's decision and blasted the Justice Department for its treatment of asylum-seekers.

"In its rush to deport as many immigrants as possible, the Trump administration is putting these women and children in grave danger of being raped, beaten, or killed," said Jennifer Chang Newell, the ACLU attorney handling the case. "We are thrilled the stay of removal was issued but sickened that the government deported two of our clients — a mom and her little girl — in the early morning hours. We will not rest until our clients are returned to safety."

Co-counsel Eunice Lee of the University of California-Hastings Center for Gender and Refugee Studies also commented on the case.

"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," Lee said. "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."

Social media rallied in support of the ACLU, Carmen, and her daughter.

Looks like the judge isn't the only person who holds Sessions in contempt.

The rule of law and the Constitution live to see another day.