US court blocks Trump’s effort to deport teenage immigrant

A federal judge in the United States has temporarily stopped President Donald Trump’s administration from expelling a teenager to Honduras under a policy enacted during the coronavirus pandemic that did not give the teen the chance under federal law to stay in the US.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the 16-year-old had been scheduled to be expelled on Wednesday, six days after he entered the US to reunite with his father. The ACLU says the boy fled because gang members threatened him after he saw one of them kill someone in his neighbourhood.

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan late on Tuesday issued an order preventing the government from expelling the teenager, who was not identified by name in court papers, through the end of the day on Wednesday as litigation is pending.

The case is the first known challenge of the Trump administration’s expulsion of hundreds of immigrant children at the border under an emergency declaration citing the coronavirus. Trump’s administration says under federal law on public health emergencies it must close the border to asylum seekers – including children – to prevent the spread of the virus.

Under federal law, border agents would typically take the teen and other youth from outside Canada and Mexico to the US Department of Health and Human Services, which places unaccompanied immigrant children with sponsors, usually family members. Instead, according to the ACLU, agents held the 16-year-old in a detention centre, then a hotel, without giving him the chance to request asylum. The boy is in good health and has shown no signs of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the group.

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