A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the government of President Donald Trump to stop expelling unaccompanied migrant children detained at the border without allowing them to make requests for refuge or asylum, dealing a severe blow to the measures imposed by the Administration because of the health emergency.
Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of unaccompanied minors who were subject to removal after the government imposed Title 42, which allows the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to remove aliens arrested at the border on the grounds of a health emergency by Covid-19.
In the order, the judge warns that unaccompanied migrant children who are detained by border agents should receive the safeguards that Congress established for them and placed in government-supervised shelters during their immigration proceedings.
The case was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and other organizations on behalf of a 15-year-old Guatemalan who entered the country alone last August.
Last March, Vice President Mike Pence ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to use its emergency powers to effectively seal the U.S. borders, despite the reluctance of the country’s main health agency, according to press reports.
Using Title 42, CBP agents at both borders have removed from the country most migrants who are detained entering undocumented, including unaccompanied children.
“Today’s ruling is a critical step in stopping the Trump administration’s unprecedented and illegal attempt to remove children under the slight guise of public health,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement.
He noted that the administration’s order has already allowed for the rapid removal of more than 13,000 children in need of protection who had a legal right to seek asylum.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairman Julian Castro lashed out today in a Twitter message to the Trump Administration.
“The Trump Administration has hastily deported thousands of migrant children fleeing violence and poverty, in violation of international agreements. They even deported children to Mexico when they came from other places,” the congressman said.
“This successful court order is a victory for human rights,” he noted about a court decision that, however, does not protect adult immigrants or migrant families crossing the border.
According to CBP data, last September more than 48,000 immigrants were expelled under Title 42 on the southern border, and an October New York Times report stated that more than 200 children who were not Mexican were expelled by CBP agents to that country.
Karla Marisol Vargas, lead attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, another of the plaintiffs’ organizations, stressed that “it has taken months and a lawsuit against the government to confirm what we already knew: the Trump administration cannot turn a pandemic into a weapon to destroy long-established protections for children with a zero liability shadow system.