Homeland Security officials say someone forgot to update a computer system last week, leading to an illegal immigrant mother and daughter being deported despite a strict promise to a judge that they wouldn’t be touched.
The mother and daughter were quickly flown back to the U.S. and are once again detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
ICE has ordered a full review to figure out how it bungled, the government said in new court filings Monday.
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan was so incensed by the deportation last Thursday that he had threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt unless the woman, identified in court papers by the pseudonym Carmen, and her daughter were immediately returned.
“I’m extremely upset at this,” he said. “This is unacceptable”
He also ordered the government to explain the embarrassing snafu, which came just weeks after the government ran afoul of other federal judges for having deported parents without their children in the chaos surrounding the zero tolerance border policy.
Carmen says in her own court filing she told officers her case was being appealed and she wasn’t supposed to be deported, but they ignored her pleas and stuck her on the plane.
She also said even after the judge ordered the plane returned, she wasn’t told what was going on. It wasn’t until they landed in El Salvador that someone came to her and told her she was going back.
“I spent the entire plane ride to my home country worried about what would happen to my daughter and me once we landed,” she said
In sworn declarations Monday, ICE officials said they have determined that Carmen’s deportation hold was communicated by email and word of mouth through the chain of command, but was never entered in the right database.
Then, a deportation officer got confused because there were two different holds on Carmen’s case — one from the court case and one from other Homeland Security officials who were rereviewing her case, ICE officials said. When that second hold was lifted, the officer assumed she could be deported — even though the court-based hold was supposed to still be in place.
“The [deportation officer] appears to have gone through normal procedures, overlooked the impediment to removal at issue here, failed to document the stay relating to this litigation, and continued with removal procedures without verifying the information” with a superior, the ICE field office director said in a court filing.
Even after lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union revealed in court Thursday that Carmen had been taken from the detention center in Texas that morning and put on a plane, ICE officials were still confused.
One official said he thought Carmen and her daughter had merely been transferred inside the U.S.
Carmen is one of a number of mothers and children who requested asylum but have had their cases denied. Their lawyers argue they would have been granted asylum but for a change in policy ordered by Mr. Sessions.
The plaintiffs in the case are protected from deportation while Judge Sullivan rules on whether Mr. Sessions’ move was legal.
One plaintiff, identified by the pseudonym Mona, gave up Monday, after months in detention. She had been seeking asylum after her boyfriend, was gunned down and she was told gang members were trailing her and threatened to kill her, too.
But she told the court she would rather be sent back home than remain in custody of immigration officials.
Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.