ICE Tried to Deport a Teenager at 3am. Our Legal Director Stopped Them.

ACLU of Pennsylvania
8 min readMay 14, 2020

My Sleepy Saturday Night that Wasn’t (Sleepy)!
By Witold “Vic” Walczak, Legal Director, ACLU of PA

The hand-written receipt from Judge Hornak (photo provided by Vic Walczak)

Two months into the lockdown, after another week of crazy hours on fast-moving COVID-related litigation, I was looking forward to an uneventful Saturday night of a nice dinner with the missus and my two home-bound daughters and then doing pretty much nothing. Perfect. I needed some quiet time to do, well, nothing. And everything was working perfectly, until about 9:00, which began a night for the ages that involved an emergency court hearing that produced a 1:42 a.m. federal court order that in relevant part said as follows:

“all officers, agents, servants, employees, or attorneys of any of them, along with all other officers of the United States involved or to be involved in any manner with the actual or potential relocation of the Petitioner from this District, along with all other persons and entities who are or may be in active concert with any of them are hereby strictly restrained and enjoined from taking any action, or permitting any action to be taken, that would cause the physical location of the Petitioner to be at any place other than the Holy Family Institute located in this judicial district.”

“Petitioner,” if you’re wondering, is a lonely 17-year-old Guatemalan boy without family in Pittsburgh. Here’s his story and how my highly anticipated snoozy night went awry.

The trajectory of my snoozy, perfect Saturday evening changed with a 9:00 p.m. call from an immigration lawyer at Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS). She asked if I had a moment for an urgent matter. Curious, I said, of course. The gist was that a 17-year-old boy in the middle of immigration proceedings was being picked up at 3:00 in the morning to be flown to “the border” and then out of the country. 3:00 o’clock on this morning, like in six hours, I asked? Yup, she said, and again asked if I could help. Oh boy. It was already after 9:00 and colleagues will tell you that my functioning brain shuts down after about 10, since I’m an early morning person. But how could I say no. Let’s do it, I said, with some trepidation!

JFCS’s client is known as an unaccompanied minor, a legal term for a child…

ACLU of Pennsylvania

We are the ACLU’s Pennsylvania affiliate, defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights through litigation, advocacy, and community education and outreach.