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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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