A federal judge on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Trump administration to stop deporting unaccompanied children who cross the Mexican border, which it has been doing under an emergency declaration instituted in March which allowed thousands of children to be deported.
Judge Emmet Sullivan from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia handed a temporary win to lawyers from civil liberties organizations, led by the ACLU, who sued on behalf of children the government attempted to deport before they were able to seek asylum and other federal protections.
The organizations argued that the administration did not have the authority to issue the emergency declaration under public health provisions.
Lawyers for the Department of Justice had argued the rapid deportations are necessary to prevent border agents and immigration officials from being infected with coronavirus and noted the declaration was issued by Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lawyers for the Department of Justice have not indicated if they will appeal.
The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment before publication of this article.
13,000. That is how many unaccompanied children have been rapidly deported, even if they were seeking asylum and did not have coronavirus, the ACLU said in a statement Tuesday.
“Today’s ruling is a critical step in halting the Trump administration’s unprecedented and illegal attempt to expel children under the thin guise of public health,” Lee Gelernt, a lawyer for the ACLU and the lead attorney in the case said in a statement.
The emergency declaration was met with criticism from some who said it is unnecessary to deny federal protections because border agents and immigration officials can effectively and safely screen people for coronavirus. Vice President Mike Pence reportedly directed the CDC to issue the emergency declaration despite officials saying there wasn’t sufficient evidence the order was necessary, two unnamed former health officials told AP. Pence intervened after the lead CDC official overseeing the order reportedly refused to comply with the Trump administration’s request because he didn’t think there was a public health need, three people described as being familiar with the decision told AP.