(CNN) -- A federal judge on Thursday erupted at the Trump administration when he learned that two asylum seekers fighting deportation were at that moment being deported and on a plane to El Salvador.
DC District Judge Emmet Sullivan then blocked the administration from deporting the two plaintiffs while they are fighting for their right to stay in the US -- reportedly excoriating the administration and threatening to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt.
The government said it is racing to comply with the court's order.
"We are complying with the court's requests, and upon arrival in El Salvador, the plaintiffs will not disembark and will be promptly returned to the United States," a source familiar with the process told CNN.
Sullivan agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union that the immigrants they are representing in a federal lawsuit should not be deported while their cases are pending.
The emergency hearing in the case turned dramatic when attorneys discovered partway through the hearing that two of their clients were physically on a plane to El Salvador.
During court, Sullivan was incensed at the report that one of the plaintiffs was in the process of being deported, according to the ACLU and The Washington Post. Sullivan demanded to know why he shouldn't hold Sessions in contempt, according to the Post and the recollection of lead
ACLU attorney Jennifer Chang Newell said the administration had pledged Wednesday that no one in the case would be deported until at least midnight at the end of Thursday. But during a recess in the proceedings Thursday, she got an email from attorneys on the ground in Texas that her client, known by the pseudonym Carmen, and Carmen's daughter had been taken from their detention center that morning and deported. After investigating during recess, she informed government attorneys and Sullivan what had happened.
"He said something like, 'I'm going to issue an order to show cause why I shouldn't hold the government in contempt, I'm going to start with the attorney general,'" Chang Newell said, explaining that Sullivan was suggesting he would issue an order that would require the government to explain why they didn't deserve to be held in contempt. Such an order has yet to be issued by the court.
He ordered the plane turned around or the clients brought back immediately, the ACLU said.
"This is pretty outrageous," Sullivan said, according to the Post. "That someone seeking justice in US court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her?"
"I'm not happy about this at all," he continued, adding it was "not acceptable."
The lawsuit was brought by immigrants only referred to by their pseudonyms in court: Grace, Mina, Gina, Mona, Maria, Carmen and her daughter J.A.C.F. and Gio.
After the hearing, Sullivan issued an emergency order halting the deportation of any of the immigrants as he considers whether he has broader authority in the case.
The lawsuit brought by the ACLU is challenging a recent decision by Sessions to make it nearly impossible for victims of domestic violence and gangs to qualify for asylum in the US. That decision was followed by implementation guidance from the Department of Homeland Security that almost immediately began turning away potentially thousands of asylum seekers at the southern border.
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