Immigrants taken from plane prior to deportation

Three mothers and their children from El Salvador, who were due to be deported from the United States on Thursday, were instead dramatically pulled from a plane belonging to the federal government after the highest immigration court in the country halted their deportation until after a review of their petitions for asylum.

Two of the mothers already had Board of Immigration Appeals claims pending, with a third now being filed by attorneys. The eleventh-hour reprieve came a day after the same court gave a temporary stay to the deportation of five other families from El Salvador, raising concerns about the former claims of the US government that all those targeted for removal in the recent raids had already exhausted all their legal avenues to remain in the United States.

The immigrants are among a total of 28 families from Central America that were taken into custody last weekend in a controversial nationwide operation targeted at recent undocumented arrivals. The Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, claims that the families were ineligible to remain in the United States via asylum status or other methods; however, the move by the court has cast doubt on the veracity of this claim.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said the agency would not comment on a situation involving pending legislation; however, immigrant advocates claim that the families are being denied due process and that some immigration agents have been invading homes at night-time, refusing to display warrants and denying the families the right to seek legal help.