Buried in the text of President Donald Trump’s latest version of temporary restrictions affecting six mostly Muslim nations are provisions that opponents contend will make it a permanent ban.
Immigrants rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union asked federal judges to block Trump’s revised policy, claiming it still singles out Muslim immigrants and refugees for unequal treatment. Court filings by the groups Friday piled on challenges to the revised travel ban to those already brought by Democratic attorneys general in Washington, Minnesota, Oregon, New York, Maryland, and Hawaii.
With Trump’s new executive order set to take effect Thursday, opponents have been rushing to court. Two court hearings are scheduled for Wednesday over whether the ban can be enforced. At least one refugee family won an exemption from the ban on Friday, as a judged ordered that an asylum application for a Wisconsin man’s wife and child in Syria could go ahead.
The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project said in its updated lawsuit that the 90-day duration of the travel restrictions amounts to a permanent ban because of the still imprecise standards set by Trump’s executive order for restoring visa approvals. The new ban also violates rights to equal protection under the Fifth Amendment as well as the Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religion over the other, according to the complaint filed Friday in Seattle federal court.
The International Refugee Assistance Project, in its updated lawsuit filed in Maryland federal court Friday, said the new Trump order “shares the same core constitutional problems as its predecessor issued five weeks earlier: it discriminates on the basis of religion and nationality, violating the Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
The Trump administration contends its new order eliminates portions of the first that led judges to block it and is needed to prevent terrorists from entering the country. The Seattle judge who blocked the earlier ban nationwide said on Friday that additional information would be required before he considers Washington state’s request to apply that ruling to the new order. Nicole Navas, a US Justice Department spokesperson, declined to comment Friday on the lawsuits.
The new cases are the first to be filed exclusively on behalf of a class of individuals directly affected by Trump’s new order. While the new executive order has been stripped of religious references, attorneys argue that discrimination remains the impetus for the travel ban — one of arguments that killed the original order.
“We see this second executive order as a more legalistic version of the original that essentially does the same thing,” said Melissa Crow, legal director at the American Immigration Council.
The plaintiffs include Reema Dahman, a permanent resident of US who has not seen her 16-year-old son since 2012 because he is trapped in war-torn Syria. She has petitioned to bring him to US, but his visa application has been suspended because of the order.
To lift travel restrictions from Syria, Iran, Libya and three other countries, officials from those nations must convince the Trump administration that there is no longer a security threat. The suspensions will “remain in effect until — and unless — each country satisfies certain as yet unidentified information-sharing requirements, which may vary by country,” according to the complaint.
Iran, for instance, would have to achieve a major diplomatic overhaul to win back a visa approval process, according to the complaint. Tehran has had strained relations with US since 1980, prompting an already intense vetting procedure for prospective immigrants, according to the complaint.
The Maryland case was first filed in February by groups that included an immigration assistance organization, HIAS, founded in 1881 to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, according to its website.
The group’s initial complaint sought only an order overturning the 50,000 cap on the number of refugees admitted to US in fiscal 2017. While the president’s revised decree carries that provision forward, the revised complaint was expanded to challenge the entirety of the travel ban.
Supporters of Trump’s order contend critics fail to understand the expanse of powers that Congress affords the president in dealing with matters of national security. The Immigration Reform Law Institute claims none of the filings to-date have adequately identified any limits to the president’s “proclamation authority.”
The only court ruling on the new travel ban so far may be a federal judge’s decision granting a Wisconsin resident a temporary restraining order.
The plaintiff has at least some chance of prevailing when a longer-term order is considered later, said US District Judge William Conley in Madison, Wisconsin. The judge said the risk of harm to the man’s family outweighed government arguments that the travel restrictions might not even apply to them.
“The court appreciates that there may be important differences between the original executive order, and the revised executive order,” Conley said. “Given the daily threat to the lives of the plaintiff’s wife and child remaining in Aleppo, Syria, the court further finds a significant risk of irreparable harm.”
The Seattle case is Ali v. Trump, 17-cv-00135, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington (Seattle).
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