A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing U.S. immigration agents from transferring an Afghan family outside Southern California after they were detained at LAX, even though they were issued visas to enter the U.S., according to a news report.
The order was issued Saturday night and also forbade the U.S. Customs and Enforcement agents from barring the family to meet with their attorneys, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The family of five, which includes a father, mother and three children, ages 7, 6 and 8 months, flew into LAX Thursday and were scheduled to board a connecting flight to Seattle where they were going to resettle, the Times said.
They never made their connecting flight because they were detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, Talia Inlender, a staff attorney with the free legal service Public Counsel, told the newspaper.
Inlender said the father had been employed by the U.S. government in Afghanistan and he and his family had received special immigration visas.
The process for obtaining those visas involves intense vetting, including interviews, security checks, medical examinations and fingerprints, as well as a finding the applicant has experienced a serious threat because of his or her work with the U.S. government, according to the petition.
“It shocks the conscience,” Inlender told The Times. “These are the people we should be putting out the welcome mat for. They’re putting their own lives and families at risk, and instead of providing them that welcome mat we are detaining them.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Carl Rusnok said ICE would “fully comply with the March 4 judicial order and all other legal requirements.”
Rusnok declined to explain why the family was initially detained.
After being held at LAX for two days, the father was taken to a detention center in Orange County and the mother and three children were taken to a similar facility in downtown Los Angeles.
On Saturday morning, a habeas corpus petition was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of the family by Public Counsel and the law firm Gibson Dunn.
Then, at a brief meeting with the mother, attorneys learned that she and her children were going to be transported to a family detention center in Texas, Inlender told The Times.
Attorneys then filed an emergency motion for a restraining order in federal court to prevent the government from transferring the family out of state.
The names of the detainees have not been released because attorneys have not received approval to make them public and because it could put the family in harm’s way.
U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton granted the temporary restraining order Saturday evening.
It bars the government from transferring the family outside of the Central District of California, which includes much of Southern California.