A federal judge on Wednesday raised concerns about the Trump administration’s policy of quickly expelling migrants at the border during the coronavirus pandemic, ordering border officials to stop the expulsion of an unaccompanied teenager from Honduras.
For him second time This month, Judge Carl Nichols of the United States District Court in Washington, a conservative who was appointed on the bench by President Trump, blocked the deportation of the 16-year-old Honduran boy at the center of one of the first legal challenges against the border. Expulsions The administration has justified expulsions under an emergency order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
During a hearing Tuesday, Nichols said the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups representing the migrant child could succeed in arguing that the public health law does not authorize expulsionsAccording to Lee Gelernt, the best ACLU attorney in the case. Even if the CDC can delegate an expulsion authority to border officials, Nichols said he did not believe those powers would override the legal safeguards Congress created for unaccompanied children, Gelernt added.
“This is a critically important decision, as it went to the heart of the administration’s assertion that it can avoid immigration laws and simply deport people, including children, without any process,” Gelernt told CBS News. .
Nichols ordered the government to keep the 16-year-old boy in the United States while drafting a ruling on the merits of the case. Earlier this month, the ACLU and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed another lawsuit on behalf of 13 year old girl from El Salvador, who was expelled from the southern border in April and denied the opportunity to apply for asylum with her mother, who lives in New York.
Citing the CDC order, now in force indefinitely, border officials carried out nearly 43,000 deportations in May, April and the last 11 days of March. Those expelled include hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children, a population that Congress exempted from rapid deportation through an anti-trafficking law in 2008.
Under the same law, border officials generally must transfer the majority of unaccompanied minors to the Office of Refugee Resettlement within three days of their encounter. The agency has a network of shelters and other housing facilities where migrant children are housed before being released to relatives in the United States or other sponsors.
Since CDC went into effect in late March, the Refugee Resettlement Office has received few references from unaccompanied minors by border officials, admitting only 39 new children in May, according to government data obtained by CBS News.
The Trump administration has portrayed the CDC order as an emergency policy designed to block the entry of migrants who could spread the coronavirus into detention facilities and force healthcare institutions.
While the lawsuits filed so far against the deportation policy seek relief for two migrant children, advocates hope they succeed in arguing that the CDC order is illegal, especially because of the way it is used to summarily deport minors. unaccompanied.
Defenders ask the Washington district court to order the government to allow the Honduran teenager to reunite with his father, who lives in Texas and has an asylum case pending.