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Court Holds Feds in Contempt: J.L. v. Cuccinelli

February 20, 2020 (2 min read)

LCCRSF, Feb. 19, 2020

"A federal court held the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in civil contempt for wrongfully deporting five young immigrants and failing to notify their attorneys – all in violation of a previous federal court order.
In an order released late Friday evening, Magistrate Judge Nathanael M. Cousins reprimanded DHS and USCIS for violating a 2018 preliminary injunction in a class action that blocked the government from denying immigration petitions of abandoned, abused, and neglected immigrant youth. 
The court also required the agencies to notify counsel for the class if any adverse action was taken against a class member, including deportation. 
“Beyond Defendants’ basic failure to comply with a Court’s order, Defendants removed class members that had been abused, neglected, or abandoned in their countries of origin,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Cousins wrote in his Order Friday. “And instead of notifying Plaintiffs’ counsel of those removals as ordered by the Court, Defendants remained silent until Plaintiffs’ counsel discovered those violations themselves six months after the first removal.”
Judge Cousins ordered that the five class members must be returned to the United States by February 29th. For every day after that deadline that they have not been returned, DHS and USCIS must pay the children’s attorneys $500 per removed class member.
The class of immigrant children is represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR), Public Counsel, and Manatt, Phelps, and Philipps LLP.
“The Trump administration cannot simply ignore court orders to keep its deportation machine running,” said Bree Bernwanger, LCCR Senior Staff Attorney. “This is a crucial dose of accountability for an administration that flagrantly disregards the rule of law.”

“For N.P.G., a young immigrant who the Government unlawfully returned to Guatemala, this Court order is the difference between safety and harm, and even life and death,” said Mary Tanagho Ross, Appellate Attorney at Public Counsel. “Congress intended to protect children like these class members through humanitarian relief. The Court’s Order is a crucial step in ensuring that they will still have a chance to access these vital protections and the safety they desperately need.”

The Court ordered the immigration agencies to return the five class members to the United States and adjudicate their Petitions “for humanitarian relief and to file a status report accounting fortheir compliance by March 6th. Counsel for the five removed class members continue to work to ensure these class members remain safely in the United States."