Judge Threatened Jeff Sessions with Contempt if Failed Asylum Seekers Sent Home

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference in Baltimore, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, to announce efforts to combat the MS-13 street gang with law enforcement and immigration actions. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

“Turn the plane around!” Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reportedly commanded Justice Department lawyers at an immigration appeal hearing in his Washington, DC, courtroom Thursday.

Sullivan threatened Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the lawyers’ ultimate boss, with contempt of court. An American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)-represented mother-daughter pair, caught crossing the southern border, were being moved in preparation for removal hundreds of miles away in Texas. The ACLU is claiming the two aliens from El Salvador, known in court documents only by the mother’s pseudonym “Carmen,” are “asylum seekers” despite their claim’s failure to pass even the initial “credible fear” test conducted by Customs and Border Patrol.

The crux of the ACLU’s appeal is that Sessions’ clarification of asylum law, announced in June, is illegal. The memo argues that only traditional interpretations of asylum eligibility, such as those persecuted by governments for their religion or politics, are valid and that recent innovations like granting asylum to people who face ordinary crime in their home countries will no longer be tolerated. The reforms are already working to reduce the previously skyrocketing number of illegal aliens claiming to be “asylum seekers” after being caught by Border Patrol, but they have sent the open-borders left into a rage.

The ACLU and co-counsel Eunice Lee of the University of California at Hastings’ “Center for Gender and Refugee Studies” claim that, under the now-disavowed Obama-era rulings of the Board of Immigration Review, the mother and child would pass the credible fear test and be allowed to stay in the United States while their case takes years to wind through the hundreds of thousands-long immigration court backlog to determine if they are actually worthy of asylum.

The open-borders attorneys had an agreement with the DOJ in the law they filed to hold off deporting the failed asylum seekers until after Thursday’s hearing in Washington. But according to the ACLU’s Jennifer Chang Newell, the pair was moved to an airport in preparation for being deported in the morning, which would have been after the end of the agreement with the government.

When informed, the Bill Clinton-appointed Judge Sullivan became outraged. “This is pretty outrageous that someone seeking justice in U.S. court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her?” the Washington Post reports him telling the government attorneys. “I’m not happy about this at all. This is not acceptable.”

Judge Sullivan ruled the El Salvadorans be kept in America indefinitely with an order that included the highly unusual addition of threatening the attorney general of the United States with contempt if “Carmen” and her daughter were removed.

Despite Sullivan’s “turn the plane around” remark, there is no indication the government tried to deport Carmen and her daughter a minute earlier than they agreed. Sullivan’s eventual order had nothing to with the prior agreement between DOJ and the ACLU and imposed a blanket ban on deporting the two until the ACLU’s lawsuit against Sessions runs its course. In fact, Sullivan issued another order imposing the same unlimited protections on ten other failed asylum seekers the ACLU are representing, ensuring all of them will be kept in the United States.

As Carmen is with a child, and, therefore, cannot be held in a typical facility for adults or separated from her child under current policy, it is likely they will be released into the American interior, free, despite having failed their credible fear determination.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Sullivan’s order meant the taxpayer wound up paying for a needless round-trip flight. “We are complying with the court’s order, and upon arrival in El Salvador, the plaintiffs will not disembark and will be promptly returned to the United States,” ICE spokeswoman Justine Whelan told the Washington Post.

The case is Grace v. Sessions, 1:18-cv-01853, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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