One week after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, multiple federal courts have issued orders against the Trump administration.
On February 3, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson secured a restraining order “immediately halting Trump immigration Executive Order nationwide.” It was the broadest order that any judge has issued against the ban. But, hours prior to this action, Judge Nathaniel Gorton in Massachusetts ruled in favor of the Trump administration and refused to extend a previously issued restraining order.
The developments come as the Justice Department reported 100,000 visas were revoked as a result of the ban.
There is strong evidence the Trump administration is defying court orders. The Virginia state government filed a contempt motion in Alexandria alleging Customs and Border Protection (CBP) flouted a court order by denying lawyers access to legal permanent residents detained at Dulles International Airport. They also accused the administration of concealing whether persons were removed from the United States after they knew a restraining order was issued.
One attorney representing hundreds of Yemenis seeking to enter the U.S., who prepared a contempt motion for a federal court in Los Angeles, told the Sacramento Bee, “The Trump administration is acting as if [they are] running a dictatorship.”
Judge Leonie Brinkema extended a temporary restraining order to February 10 and ordered the government to provide the state of Virginia with a “list of all persons denied entry or removed from the U.S. since January 27.” The list should include anyone who had “lawful permanent resident status,” an “immigrant visa (or accompanying family or spousal visa),” a “valid student visa (or accompanying family or spousal visa)”, or “a valid work visa (or accompanying family or spousal visa).”
On February 2, Judge Victoria Roberts in Detroit “permanently enjoined” the government from enforcing sections of the executive order, which allow for the suspension of visas, against “lawful permanent residents.”
Another temporary restraining order was issued by Judge Andre Birotte Jr. on January 31 enjoining and restraining any officials from “removing, detaining, or blocking the entry” of plaintiffs who filed a complaint or “any other person from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen with a valid immigrant visa.” Birotte also enjoined and restrained officials from canceling any validly obtained immigrant visas.
Judge Allison D. Burroughs and Magistrate Judge Judith Gail Dein issued a temporary restraining order on January 29 to “limit secondary screening to comply with the regulations and statutes in effect prior to the executive order.”
The Trump administration was ordered not to “detain or remove individuals with refugee applications approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, lawful permanent residents, and other individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, who absent the executive order, would be legally authorized to enter the United States.”
The same day, Judge Dolly Gee responded to a petition from Ali Khoshbakhti Vayeghan, who was put on a flight to Dubai in order to be deported to Iran. She found it was strongly likely that his deportation violated his constitutional rights and enjoined the government from barring Vayeghan’s return to the U.S. The judge even ordered the government transport Vayeghan back to the U.S. and allow him into the U.S. under his “previously approved visa.”
Finally, on January 28, Trump was handed his first legal defeat when Judge Ann Donnelly ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of Hameed Darweesh and Haider Alshawi. Donnelly issued a temporary restraining order from removing any refugees with applications approved by the U.S. government, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and any other individuals from the seven Muslim-majority countries “legally authorized to enter the United States.” The news came while tens of thousands of citizens throughout the country gathered at airports to protest the Muslim ban.
Lawsuits filed against the ban were a combination of complaints on behalf of individuals seeking to ensure they could still travel, states like Washington or Virginia, and cities like San Francisco. But the ACLU escalated the effort to halt the worst effects of the ban by filing a class action lawsuit on February 2.
Both Abdiqafar Wagafe and Mehdi Ostadhassan are Muslims and “longtime U.S. residents.” The ACLU argued the “unconstitutional executive order” and “unlawful vetting program” effectively “bars them from obtaining the citizenship and immigration status they seek.”
“This ban seeks to shut me out of the United States simply because of my religion and my nationality, but my life and my future is here,” Ostadhassan declared.
Ostadhassan, an engineering professor at the University of North Dakota, has lived in the U.S. since 2009. He has an American wife and son and applied for his green card in 2014 but is still waiting for it.
The class the ACLU seeks to have certified to challenge the ban are nationals from the designated countries. They have been lawfully present in California and should have the right to travel to and from the U.S.
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates sent shockwaves through the government when she sent a letter to top lawyers at the Justice Department indicating she was “not convinced that the defense of the executive order” was consistent with the “solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.” She said she did not think the order was lawful and Justice Department would not defend it so long as she was acting attorney general.
Trump had her sacked for defying him and replaced her with someone who would loyally defend the order in the courts, and on February 3, the administration submitted its first replies to some of earliest complaints against the Muslim ban.
In a case in which the Massachusetts government intervened on behalf of the public, the Trump administration argued political branches have “broad power to control the admission of aliens into the United States.” They also insisted the plaintiffs cannot show the “potential for irreparable harm.”
Oxfam America, one of the plaintiffs, objects to how it can no longer have certain individuals present within the United States for its work. To that, the Trump administration replied, “Modern technology such as the telephone, international mail, electronic mail, and video conferencing would all accomplish the ends that Oxfam now purportedly seek[s].”
The administration dismissed any suggestion that Arghavan Louhghalam and Mazdak Tootkaboni—two University of Massachusetts professors detained at Logan International Airport on January 28—have grounds to challenge the ban because they are lawful permanent residents.
But as the lawsuit indicates, “Thousands of people in the commonwealth [of Massachusetts] cannot travel outside the country (or, in some cases, return to the country from abroad), and they cannot safely make travel plans. Thousands of people face considerable uncertainty as to their legal status even within the United States. The effects are being felt and will only worsen without the protections currently in place through the temporary restraining order.”
“It is little comfort to these residents that the United States now says, after days of vague and conflicting statements from various agencies, that it will not enforce the executive order with respect to lawful permanent residents. The executive order has not been amended or rescinded and continues to apply on its face to lawful permanent residents.”
And it adds, “That not all of these residents have come forward to submit evidence to the court of their immediate travel plans misses the point. They already are being harmed and will only be further harmed if the temporary restraining order is lifted.”
Judge Nathaniel Gorton considered these arguments and declined to “encroach” upon “delicate policy judgments” involved in immigration decisions. He also maintained, “There is no constitutionally protected interest in either obtaining or continuing to possess a visa.” Immigrants have no due process rights to protect their visas from being revoked.