A federal judge ordered U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to personally appear before him if the government fails to return a mother and her daughter who were deported to El Salvador even as the judge was considering their fate, Bloomberg informed.
The government stated late on Thursday that the plane brought them back to the U.S.
Two members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet were held personally accountable by the U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington after he learned that even while a hearing in the matter was underway Thursday afternoon, immigration authorities had already put the mother and daughter on an airplane.
The judge’s threat to hold Sessions and Nielsen in contempt of court if they didn’t comply with his order is the latest fallout over the Trump administration’s push to deport undocumented immigrants as quickly as possible.
On Wednesday, the union representing the nation’s immigration judges warned that Sessions was threatening the judiciary’s independence – and pointed to a case in which he personally interceded to replace one immigration judge with another to speed up an individual deportation of a Guatemalan man.
The government has also come under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union for deporting hundreds of parents before they could be reunited with children who had been taken from them during President Donald Trump’s short-lived “zero tolerance” border crossing crackdown.
The removal process for the El Salvadorian mother and daughter was supposed to be delayed for Sullivan to conduct an emergency hearing Thursday on their appeal. Government lawyers “specifically represented to the court that ‘Carmen’ and her daughter would not be removed prior” to 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Sullivan said in an order he issued later in the day.
But during a recess in the case, ACLU lawyers were told that Carmen and her daughter had already been taken from a family detention center in Dilley, Texas, and were headed for the airport to be deported. Sullivan then ordered the government to “turn the plane around,” according to a transcript of the hearing.