U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly (R) looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order at Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, January 25, 2017. / REUTERS

States Sue Trump Administration over Muslim Ban

Four states are suing President Donald Trump over his executive order banning immigrants from seven of the world’s Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Massachusetts, New York and Virginia have all joined Washington state, which on Monday became the first state to announce a lawsuit of its own, in taking federal action.

“If successful it would have the effect of invalidating the president’s unlawful action nationwide,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington state said.

The order, according to the complaint, “is separating Washington families, harming thousands of Washington residents, damaging Washington’s economy, hurting Washington-based companies, and undermining Washington’s sovereign interest in remaining a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees.”

Washington state currently has an estimated 7,280 non-citizen immigrants from the seven nations affected by the ban: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen, the complaint notes.

“No one is above the law not even the president,” Ferguson said. “And in the courtroom it is not the loudest voice that prevails. It’s the Constitution.”

The complaint also cites Trump’s 2015 campaign rhetoric, at which time he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer denied that the executive order is a “ban,” despite the president using that very word himself on Twitter Monday.

On Tuesday, New York joined a lawsuit originally filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale University, the Urban Justice Center and the National Immigration Law Center. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called the order “unconstitutional, unlawful, and fundamentally un-American.”

“I will continue to do everything in my power to not just fight this executive order, but to protect the families caught in the chaos sown by President Trump’s hasty and irresponsible implementation,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

Schneider reported to The Associated Press that lawyers and attorneys general are having their own “awakening” when it comes to Trump and his administration.

“This is a president who does not have respect for the rule of the law,” Schneiderman said. “That’s something that bothers a lot of people.”

In Massachusetts, State Attorney General Maura Healey announced she would be joining a suit filed on behalf of two University of Massachusetts Dartmouth professors from Iran who were detained at Logan Airport over the weekend. Both professors are legal permanent residents of the United States. The Massachusetts chapter of the ACLU filed the lawsuit.

“[The executive order] violates the rights of Massachusetts residents, it violates their right to be treated equally under the law,” Healey said at a press conference. “You are not supposed to discriminate against someone based on their religion. That’s what this order does.”

Early Sunday morning Judge Allison Burroughs and Magistrate Judge Judith Dein signed a temporary restraining order stating that anyone from one of the seven Muslim-majority countries with a valid visa or who is a permanent resident of the U.S. cannot be detained.

Matthew Segal, legal director of the state’s ACLU chapter, called the restraining order “a huge victory for justice.”

“We told President Trump we would see him in court if he ordered this unconstitutional ban on Muslims,” Segal said. “He tried, and federal courts in Boston and throughout the nation stopped it in its tracks.”

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, along with Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, announced that Virginia would also be joining a lawsuit in response to the ban.

“There are countless residents of the commonwealth people who live in Virginia, who work in Virginia or who attend schools in Virginia whose lives and livelihoods have been or will be severely disrupted by the order,” Herring said.

The suit was filed following the detainment of three brothers, along with about 60 others, at Dulles International Airport on Saturday. Two of the brothers are citizens of Yemen; one brother is a U.S. citizen.

“I’m the governor of the commonwealth that was founded on religious freedom,” McAuliffe said. “This is a principle that we all can never forget and we need to continually fight for.”

Protests in response to the ban took place at airports across the country over the weekend. And attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia on Sunday condemned the executive order, calling it “unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful.”

“As the chief legal officers for over 130 million Americans and foreign residents of our states, we will work together to ensure the federal government obeys the Constitution, respects our history as a nation of immigrants, and does not unlawfully target anyone because of their national origin or faith,” the 16 attorneys general said. “Religious liberty has been, and always will be, a bedrock principle of our country and no president can change that truth.”

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