A U.S. Court of Appeals judge has ordered U.S. officials to intercept a mother and her 12-year-old daughter on a plane Friday being deported to Guatemala and immediately return them to the United States.
The 34-year-old mother, Ana, and her daughter were woken up at 3 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Friday and pulled from their rooms at a Pennsylvania family detention center, where they had been living for over a year, said her attorney, Bridget Cambria. By 10 a.m., the two were placed on a plane flying to Panama City, where they would catch a second flight to Guatemala City.
In a rare move that will likely draw more attention to the controversial practice of family detention, Chief Judge Theodore A. McKee of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ordered U.S. officials to stop Ana and her daughter when they arrive in Guatemala City and immediately return them to the United States.
“If the government is unable to intercept Petitioners at the airport, they must locate Petitioners in Guatemala and return them to the United States as quickly as possible,” McKee wrote in his June 19 order.
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Reached Friday night, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they were reviewing the court’s order.
“Right now the agency is working to prepare a way forward for all parties involved in the case,” said spokeswoman Gillian Christensen.
McClatchy isn’t sharing Ana’s last name because of concerns she and her lawyer have about possible reprisals from those she had fled in Guatemala.
Cambria had asked the court to block Ana’s deportation while her latest appeal was pending. In its opposition to that request, the U.S. attorney’s office told the court that, as of June 9, immigration officials had no plans to remove Ana and her daughter. She was then removed 10 days later at 9:55 a.m. Friday morning.
In his order, McKee said the court would have granted Cambria’s request to block the deportation had the court known Ana and her daughter were going to be deported.
Ana and her daughter were victims of domestic violence in Guatemala, Cambria said, and suffered psychological issues because of their long stay at the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania.
Cambria said ICE knew that an emergency request to stop the deportation had been filed. But ICE officials didn’t notify the court that they had plans to remove the mother and child.
“It’s the court acknowledging that ICE can’t flex its muscle and deport victims of domestic violence, victims of sexual violence without giving them appropriate due process,” Cambria said. “You can’t play tricks when you’re dealing with people’s lives.”
The U.S. attorney has asked for Cambria’s help in tracking down Ana and her daughter in Guatemala.