By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
March 13, 2017
At least six U.S. states are challenging President Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban 2.0 executive order that bars new visas for people from six Muslim countries and temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program.
On March 8, the state of Hawaii filed suit, arguing the new federal order will harm Muslims living in the state. As of March 10, five other states have joined together in a combined challenge to the latest order from Trump.
The West Coast state of Washington, which played a leading role in resisting the Muslim Ban 1.0 order, asked a federal judge in Seattle to affirm that a court order suspending enforcement of Trump’s January 27 edict also applies to the new version released by the White House on March 6.
The states of Oregon, Minnesota and New York have joined Washington State’s legal action, and Massachusetts announced Thursday that it, too, will take part when an amended complaint is filed next week.
Bob Ferguson, Washington state’s Attorney General, said the states have a solid legal argument. The president’s new immigration order is “narrower” than the original version, Ferguson said, but “that does not mean that it’s cured its constitutional problems.”
California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia too have filed briefs supporting Washington’s initial lawsuit.
Interestingly, a federal judge in Seattle who issued a nationwide halt to Trump’s original travel restrictions denied a motion to have the same ruling apply to the modified measures, saying at least one of the parties must first file additional court papers.
New Order to Take Effect March 16
Trump signed a new executive order on March 6 barring citizens from six countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from travelling to the United States for three months, and suspended for four months a U.S. refugee resettlement program.
Foreign travellers who received visas to the United States before January 22, or who already are legal permanent residents of the U.S., are exempted from the new order.
The revised order removed Iraq from the list of countries whose nationals were to be barred from entering the United States, and also clarified the exempt status of “green card” holders — legal permanent residents.
A federal judge will hold a hearing on Hawaii’s lawsuit on Wednesday, March 15, one day before the new ban is to take effect. A federal judge in Maryland, Theodore Chuang, has also scheduled a hearing in the case for March 15.
A religious leader’s mother-in-law living in Syria is playing a large part in Hawaii’s lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Imam Ismail Elshikh of the Muslim Association of Hawaii is a plaintiff in the state’s challenge. He says the ban will prevent his Syrian mother-in-law from visiting him.
Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin says people like Elshikh’s mother-in-law have fewer rights than U.S. citizens. But Chin says the imam is a U.S. citizen, has rights and would be prevented from seeing his mother-in-law.
The mother-in-law is awaiting approval of a visa to see her relatives in Hawaii. Chin says the woman and others have become victims because of the ban’s “standardless set of waivers and exceptions that weren’t set by Congress.”
The state of Maryland said it would join the suit filed by the attorney general from Washington state, which also has the support of Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Oregon.
“President Trump’s second executive order is still a Muslim ban,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a statement. “The administration persists in an effort to implement a policy that is inhumane and unconstitutional, but also makes us less safe, not more safe.”
ACLU Also Files Lawsuit against Muslim Ban 2.0
In another legal challenge, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint on behalf of several refugee assistance groups over the new controversial executive order.
“Putting a new coat of paint on the Muslim ban doesn’t solve its fundamental problem, which is that the Constitution and our laws prohibit religious discrimination,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s immigrant rights project. “The further President Trump goes down this path, the clearer it is that he is violating that basic rule.”
The ACLU, the preeminent US civil liberties group, and the National Immigration Law Centre brought the suit on behalf of the International Refugee Assistance Project and the refugee resettlement group HIAS, as well as several individuals.
The suit alleges that the new executive order violates the constitutional protection of freedom of religion in that it is “intended and designed to target and discriminate against Muslims, and it does just that in operation”.
“Rarely in American history has governmental intent to discriminate against a particular faith and its adherents been so plain,” the complaint says, alleging the new order will cause “irreparable harm” and asking for an injunction.
46 Obama-Era U.S. Attorneys Asked To Resign
In another development, the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions abruptly asked the remaining 46 chief federal prosecutors left over from the Obama administration to resign on Friday, including Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who had been asked to stay on in November by then President-elect Donald Trump.
The Reuters news agency pointed out that although U.S. attorneys are political appointees, and the request from Trump’s Justice Department is part of a routine process, the move came as a surprise. Not every new administration replaces all U.S. attorneys at once.
Bharara, appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2009, has pursued an aggressive push against corruption in state and city politics and is known for his prosecution of white-collar criminal cases. He also has been overseeing a federal probe into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising.
Preet Bharara was fired Saturday after he refused to submit his resignation. “I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life,” Bharara wrote on his personal Twitter feed.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America