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Federal judge blocks pandemic-based deportation of Honduran teen

By Jean Lotus
Federal judge blocks pandemic-based deportation of Honduran teen
Immigration advocates are watching a case filed by the ACLU to see if emergency pandemic health restrictions can be used to deport asylum seekers. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

June 10 (UPI) -- A federal judge Wednesday blocked the Trump administration from using pandemic-based health justifications to deport a Honduran teen.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan upheld a request from the American Civil Liberties Union in a suit filed Tuesday to issue an emergency temporary restraining order in the case of a minor identified by his initials, "J.B.B.C."

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Sullivan is also the federal judge who will decide whether to dismiss the federal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The ACLU said in a complaint that the Trump administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are unlawfully using a new system to restrict asylum petitions in the name of public health.

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The CDC published an order under Title 42 of the U.S. Code, which restricts entry into the country if there is "serious danger of the introduction of ... disease into the United States."

The complaint alleges that Trump's immigration policy is using Title 42 to block the rightful due-process of asylum seekers.

The 16-year-old boy, who has no symptoms of COVID-19, was apprehended June 4 by border officials, the suit said.

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His father escaped Honduras due to fear of "severe persecution" and lives in the United States while his asylum petition is pending. J.B.B.C. has also experienced persecution and was trying to join his father, his lawyers argued.

"Plaintiff would face grave danger in Honduras and must be given the opportunity to remain in the United States to receive the statutory protections to which he is entitled," the suit said.

The teen is being held as an unaccompanied minor near El Paso, Texas, and was to be deported back to Honduras this week.

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The ACLU argues that immigration authorities are expanding the power of Title 42 to circumvent Congress on immigration policies. In the past, Title 42 has authorized testing and quarantine powers, but has never been used to deport migrants.

Before March, an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum would have been placed into the custody of Health and Human Services. The boy would have then joined his father waiting for an asylum hearing.

The Trump administration also pushed through pandemic-related economic measures meant to block visas for undocumented child migrants for 60 days to preserve jobs for U.S. citizens.

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The New York Times estimated in May that more than 900 children have been deported under the new policy, being sent back before they have a chance to coordinate with guardians or sponsors in the United States.

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The suit is being watched by immigration advocates to see whether the new Title 42 rules to deport asylum seekers under emergency pandemic rules will stand going forward.

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