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Author: Subject: Judge rejects Trump administration's lawyerly take on travel ban 'detention'
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[*] posted on 22-2-2017 at 05:11 PM
Judge rejects Trump administration's lawyerly take on travel ban 'detention'


A federal judge in Brooklyn has rejected the Trump administration's lawyerly interpretation of who was "detained" under the travel ban executive order President Donald Trump issued late last month.

U.S. District Court Judge Carol Amon ruled Tuesday that the Justice Department took too strict a view of who was deemed to be placed in detention under Trump's directive. Federal agencies parsing an order another judge, Ann Donnelly, issued several weeks ago concluded it required disclosure only of instances where people were formally taken into custody, Amon said.

Federal officials "argue that the term should be given its meaning as defined in immigration parlance; namely, detained 'pending removal' or 'at an off-site facility,' and that it should not include everyone who was merely being processed pursuant to the EO," Amon wrote in a four-page ruling. "The Court construes Judge Donnelly's use of the term 'detained' to be in the everyday sense, meaning those being held for questioning pursuant to the terms of the EO, as distinguished from individuals formally placed in removal proceedings."

Amon argued that the formal definition would be illogical in this context since the two men who originally filed the case don't appear to have ever been detained away from JFK airport or formally deported.

Amon's ruling came on a motion to enforce Donnelly's order to turn over details about who was detained to the lawyers handling the case, which is seeking class action status. Amon's ruling was not a complete victory for the immigrants, since she concluded the feds were not obliged to provide ongoing updates on individuals detained under the order. Instead, the judge ruled, the disclosure should cover a period of a little over 26 hours beginning on the night after Trump's order was issued.

Amon also rejected the Justice Department's position that a "snapshot" of detentions on Feb. 7, about ten days after Donnelly's order, amounted to compliance. Federal authorities informed the lawyers handling the case that no one was in detention and no one had been removed under Trump's order.

Donnelly, an appointee of President Barack Obama, handled the case as the duty emergency judge on the weekend the controversy arose late last month. She barred the deportation of individuals affected by Trump's directive, which banned travel by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries and halted admission of refugees from around the globe.

The case was later assigned to Amon, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush. Donnelly's order barring deportations under the Trump directive is set to expire Tuesday, but has been effectively overtaken by a broader order a Seattle-based judge issued against the Trump policy. A federal appeals court panel turned down the Trump administration's request to halt that broader order.

Trump has said he disagrees with that ruling but expects to sign a new executive order shortly that is "tailored" to address legal concerns about the first directive.

Spokeswomen for the Justice and Homeland Security Departments declined to comment, citing policies of not publicly addressing pending litigation.

A law student who is part of the team pressing the case on behalf of the immigrants welcomed Amon's decision.

"We’re very pleased with the ruling. It's an another important step towards getting the government to comply with its obligations under a court order that's now over three weeks old," Yale law student Amit Jain said. "We've been trying to facilitate people's return, when possible, on a case-by-case basis when we heard about them, but we're very pleased to be getting this list, which will help us identify more folks who can come back."

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