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DOJ to Appeal Judge's Injunction Against 'Cruel, Unprecedented Policy' of Deporting Migrant Children

The Trump administration—which has denied the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and seized infants from their parents—claims it is acting in the interest of public health and children. 

A migrant child sits jailed in a cage after being arrested by U.S. immigration authorities. (Photo: Christ Chavez/Getty Images)

The U.S. Justice Department is appealing a federal judge's injunction barring the deportation of unaccompanied children during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Christ Chavez/Getty Images)

A week after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against a Trump administration directive ordering it to stop deporting unaccompanied children under the pretext of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday night filed a notice to appeal to a higher court. 

"There is no basis for allowing this cruel, unprecedented policy to take effect, given the harm that these young children would face if sent back."
—Lee Gelernt, ACLU

The Associated Press reports the Justice Department asserted the November 18 injunction by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan "likely will have an irreversible impact on public health" by straining the ability of hospitals and other medical facilities and personnel to adequately manage the worsening coronavirus pandemic. Citing spiking Covid-19 cases in border communities in Arizona and Texas, the DOJ warned of the potential risks of transporting "potentially infected" children through airports and other transit hubs. 

Sullivan's injunction involved Title 42, which the Trump administration unsuccessfully argued allows for the removal of non-U.S. citizens who carry diseases. Sullivan ruled that while Title 42 allows the government to deny such people entry into the country, it does not provide for their expulsion. Stephen Miller, a senior immigration adviser to President Donald Trump who has espoused xenophobic and white nationalist views, was a leading proponent of using Title 42 and the pandemic as pretext for deporting children. 

Since March, some 200,000 migrants have been removed from the U.S. under the guise of pandemic protection, including at least 8,800 unaccompanied children. These minors are unable to apply for asylum in the U.S. or consult with an attorney. 

Critics have expressed serious skepticism that an administration led by a president who has downplayed or even denied the severity of the deadliest pandemic in a century—even while knowing the truth about it—is really concerned about protecting the public and the children it seeks to deport. The administration, they say, showed little such concern when it packed children and other jailed migrants in cold, crowded cages, or when it arrested parents who unlawfully entered the country and seized their children—666 of whom still have not been reunited with their families years later. 

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt denounced the DOJ's latest attempt to place innocent children in harm's way.

"There is no basis for allowing this cruel, unprecedented policy to take effect, given the harm that these young children would face if sent back and the readily available ways of safely housing the children," Gelernt said in an email to the Associated Press

On Wednesday, Common Dreams reported U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement expelled 33 unaccompanied Guatemalan minors even after Sullivan's ruling, with ICE officials claiming they did not learn of the judge's injunction until after the deportation flight had landed in Guatemala City. 

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