Judge Castigates Justice Department Lawyers for Nearly Deporting Immigrant on a Technicality

A federal judge angrily questioned whether the Biden administration has a policy of deporting individuals absent a court order, even when a judge is requesting more time to make a decision to be able to get acquainted with the facts. 

In this Nov. 15, 2019, file photo, a detainee talks on the phone in his pod at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

(CN) — A federal judge lambasted Department of Justice attorneys during a Wednesday hearing, calling their decision to ignore a temporary restraining order in a deportation case “an affront.”

“This is no way to conduct business,” said U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer to U.S. Attorney Sara Winslow. “This is no way to seek justice. It’s an outrage and an affront that one co-equal branch of government won’t give the other branch the time to examine an important case.”

Breyer was visibly angry for most of the beginning stages of the hearing because the case almost resulted in the deportation of William Matias Rauda, an El Salvadoran national who came to the United States when he was 16. 

Rauda was almost deported recently due to clerical confusion.

The case was initially assigned to another judge in the Northern District of California who eventually recused herself. The judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order due to the recusal but asked the Justice Department to hold off on deportation until Breyer could acquaint himself with the facts of the case. 

Winslow agreed, but she said Thursday that she did not understand that Breyer’s law clerk was formally asking for more time. 

“I did not understand that I was agreeing to a special request for additional time,” Winslow said. 

In the meantime, Justice Department lawyers said the policy for the Department of Homeland Security is to move forward on deportation for individuals absent a court order. 

Thus Rauda, who is being held in a facility in Louisiana, was placed in line with a number of other individuals and nearly put on a plane destined for El Salvador before he was rescued from that eventuality at the last second. 

Breyer was angry that it even came to that and also demanded to know if it was the policy of the executive branch of government under the Biden administration to refuse to accord federal judges a reasonable time to get acquainted with facts before requiring a court order to stay deportation. 

“If this is the policy of this administration I can assure you it will be reviewed at a much higher level,” said a visibly frustrated Breyer. 

Winslow said the incident was more attributable to miscommunication than a standing policy, but Breyer demanded a declaration regarding the policy regardless. 

Eventually, the sides moved onto the question of whether Rauda should remain in the United States. 

“This is an exceedingly rare and powerful case where Mr. Matias’s life is in danger,” said Rauda’s lawyer, Francisco Ugarte. 

Rauda said he was tortured and threatened with murder by rapacious street gangs in El Salvador, a country that has the highest murder rate in the world. He said he fled to the United States when he was 16 in an effort to flee the violence. 

He further contends that if he is deported back to his native country, he will likely suffer violence and be killed by those same street gangs. 

“I have never had a client fight a deportation order so hard while in detention,” Ugarte said during the hearing. “He is 100% certain that he would be sent to his death.”

The DOJ remains skeptical. 

They say the evidence for the threat against Ruada is thin. 

Winslow said Rauda’s evidence for his imminent death rests entirely on his own accounts of his youth in El Salvador and on a text from a Bay Area phone number that purports to know Rauda is on an assassination list kept by gang members in El Salvador. 

“An unauthenticated text from a local number means we don’t think an allegation of irreparable harm has been made,” Winslow said. 

The danger, according to Winslow, is to set a precedent that allows people to tell uncorroborated stories of personal danger as a means of staying in the United States. 

The danger, according to Ugarte, is sending a young man persecuted by criminal street gangs to a near-certain death rather than granting asylum.

Breyer seemed skeptical of Winslow’s argument about establishing a dangerous precedent. 

“If a frivolous claim is submitted, the judge would see it as frivolous,” Breyer said. He also said he would take the matter under submission and rule in the coming weeks.

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