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Judge blocks deportation of 16-year-old Honduran teenager under coronavirus rule

Judge blocks deportation of 16-year-old Honduran teenager under coronavirus rule
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A federal court in Washington, D.C., blocked the deportation of a 16-year-old Honduran boy as part of the first legal challenge to a controversial Trump administration policy that invoked the Public Health Service Act to turn back thousands of immigrants at the southern border. 

In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order barring the entry of anyone into the country without authorization, including asylum-seekers, as the country sought to curb the spread of the coronavirus by limiting "nonessential" border crossings. The order resulted in children and adults seeking asylum being removed from the country. 

The court ruled that the CDC surpassed its authority in issuing that order and that the Trump administration violated federal laws that govern the processing of unaccompanied minors.

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The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the boy, who fled to the U.S. to seek protection from persecution in his home country, should be able to live with his father, who resides in the U.S., while waiting for his asylum case to be heard.

“This ruling is a critical first step in pushing back against the Trump administration’s unprecedented and illegal attempt to remove children and asylum seekers under these public health laws,” Lee Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who argued the case, said in a statement. “We are thrilled for this boy and his family.” 

The ruling, issued by U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, could lead to more challenges to the Trump policy, which turned away thousands of immigrants at the southern border citing the CDC order.

Before that, unaccompanied children would be picked up by Border Patrol agents and sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. There, they would be housed in shelters across the country as they began their asylum application and waited to be reunited with family members in the country.