State Watch

50-plus lawsuits filed against Trump refugee order


Religious groups, state attorneys general, residents and visitors to the United States have filed more than 50 lawsuits challenging President Trump’s executive order halting refugee programs and barring visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The order, issued last Friday, led to a weekend of protests at airports as lawyers raced to provide legal aid to those detained by federal immigration and border officials, even as those officials sought guidance from superiors in Washington. 

The lawsuits, filed across U.S. district courts in 14 states, run the gamut: Some challenge the detention of specific individuals, either visitors or permanent residents who hold green cards. 

{mosads}Others, such as cases filed by the Arab American Civil Rights League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), challenged the order’s impact on Muslims more broadly. The CAIR lawsuit, filed in Virginia, alleges the order amounts to a ban on Muslim immigration, something Trump said during his run for president he would pursue.

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin announced Friday that the state would sue as well, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported, bringing to seven the number of states suing over the order.

Chin said the ban is unconstitutional and “affects our state in a unique way.”

“The executive order that President Trump issued last Friday keeps Hawaii families apart, it blocks Hawaii residents from traveling, it harms Hawaii’s tourism industry, it establishes a religion in Hawaii in violation of the Constitution, it blocks Hawaii businesses and universities from hiring as they see fit,” he said.

“Most importantly, it degrades the values that Hawaii has worked so hard to protect.”

The lawsuit was filed Friday morning in Hawaii federal court.

Another suit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D), joined by Minnesota’s Democratic attorney general, says the order harms state residents, employers and educational institutions by separating families and damaging the economy. Two major businesses based in Washington state, Amazon and Expedia, filed declarations with the court claiming the order had harmed them.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) also cited the impact the order has on universities in the Commonwealth, as he asked a federal judge to allow his office to join the CAIR’s lawsuit. At least 350 students and faculty in Virginia would be affected if they traveled to their home countries and then tried to return to the United States.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that Virginia will be allowed to join the suit.

Federal judges have issued temporary injunctions against deporting those impacted by the law in Massachusetts, Washington, New York and Michigan. Those injunctions cover only a handful of specific travelers, and judges have said they will work through the weekend to decide whether to extend or broaden the stays.

Twenty cases have been filed in the Eastern District of New York, which includes John F. Kennedy International Airport, where dozens of immigrants were detained. Seven cases have been filed in the Central District of California, which covers Los Angeles. Six suits are pending in the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Multiple suits have also been filed in Georgia, Massachusetts, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington, according to a database being maintained by the University of Michigan Law School’s Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse.

Michael Price, an attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice Liberty and National Security Program, said the central question in many of the cases pending before federal judges is whether or not the person bringing the suit has the legal standing to sue.

“If the likelihood of success comes down to a standing question, then the answer to that question is going to be as varied as the plaintiffs,” Price said. “Somebody who is a noncitizen abroad applying for a visa has, on a continuum, probably the least standing of anybody. But that changes once you start talking about somebody who’s been granted a visa.”

It remained unclear Friday just how many people had been impacted by the ban, as the Justice Department, the State Department and the White House all offered different numbers.

A Justice Department attorney said in court in Virginia on Friday that more than 100,000 visas had been canceled after the order took effect. A State Department spokesman contradicted that claim and said fewer than 60,000 individuals had had visas revoked to comply with the order.

Both numbers are orders of magnitude higher than the 109 individuals White House press secretary Sean Spicer said were detained at airports. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said later this week that that number was certain to rise as more visitors arrived or attempted to board planes bound for the United States.

More lawsuits over Trump’s order are likely in the coming days and weeks. Sixteen Democratic attorneys general said this week they would examine legal options. The office of Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) said she would announce a legal path forward next week.

Updated 7:32 p.m. 


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