AMP Report – March 15, 2016

Muslim Ban 2.0 is blocked by federal judge in Hawaii

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

In a stunning blow for the Trump administration, a federal judge in Hawaii Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order to block President Trump’s revised executive order on travel and refugees from taking effect Thursday, March 16.

Today’s ruling was the second frustrating defeat for Trump’s Muslim travel ban, after a federal court in Seattle halted an earlier version of the executive order last month.

Decisions were expected soon from federal courts in Washington state and Maryland. The ruling means a nationwide freeze on enforcement of section two of the order, banning entry by nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.

In his 43-page written order, Judge Watson called the administration’s arguments illogical and flawed.

Citing prior comments Trump made as a candidate about his desire to curb immigration of foreign nationals who are Muslim, Judge Watson said “significant and un-rebutted evidence of religious animus” was behind both the original and revised versions of the executive order.

“These plainly-worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose,” Judge Watson said.

Judge Watson wrote that the plaintiffs in the case, the Hawaii attorney general and resident Ismail Elshikh have “shown a strong likelihood of succeeding on their claim that the Executive Order violates First Amendment rights under the Constitution.”

In the Hawaii case, nearly five dozen technology companies, including Airbnb, Dropbox, Lyft and TripAdvisor, joined in a brief objecting to the travel ban.

Justice Department lawyers argued that the president was well within his authority to impose the ban, and that those challenging it had raised only speculative harms.

“They bear the burden of showing irreparable harm ... and there is no harm at all,” said Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, who argued on behalf of the government in Greenbelt, Md. in the morning and by phone in Hawaii in the afternoon.

The arguments were similar at the hearing in Maryland, where a federal judge peppered both sides with pointed questions about whether the revised executive order would harm Muslims, refugees and the organizations that serve them, according to Washington Post.

“I think we’ve been going for quite a while,” U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang said after the nearly two-hour hearing. “I appreciate everyone’s advocacy. . . . I’ll try to issue a written ruling — hopefully today, but not necessarily.”

The ACLU and lawyers for refugee aid organizations asked Chuang to halt the entire order, arguing that it is a pretext to discriminate against Muslims, who make up the majority of refugees admitted to the United States.

“If you were trying to ban Muslims,” ACLU lawyer Omar C. Jadwat told the Chuang in court, “banning refugees would be one compelling way to do it.”

Justin Cox, a lawyer for the National Immigration Law Center who also argued in court, said refugees and immigrants feel that Trump’s order essentially targets Islam. “All of these individuals express that they feel that their religion has been condemned by the executive order,” he said.

Bob Ferguson, the Washington attorney general, was quoted as saying that in an extended legal fight, his office could seek depositions from administration officials and request documents that would expose the full process by which Trump aides crafted the ban.

Multiple lawsuits challenging the travel ban have extensively cited Mr. Trump’s comments during the presidential campaign. He first proposed to bar all Muslims from entering the United States, and then offered an alternative plan to ban travel from a number of Muslim countries, which he described as a politically acceptable way of achieving the same goal.

The lawsuits also cited Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who advises Mr. Trump, who said he had been asked to help craft a Muslim ban that would pass legal muster.

And they highlighted comments by Stephen Miller, an adviser to the president, who cast the changes to Mr. Trump’s first travel ban as mere technical adjustments aimed at ushering the same policy past the review of a court.

President Trump has reacted with fury to unfavorable court rulings in the past, savaging the judiciary after the court in Seattle blocked major parts of his first travel order and singling out the judge for derision on Twitter. The president’s comments were so biting that even his nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, told senators that attacks on the judiciary were “demoralizing.”

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) welcoming the Hawaii Judge order said moving forward the right thing for President Trump to do is rescind this order. “Additionally, Trump must stop implementing discriminatory policies, which target individuals based on their national origin and religion. In fact, the court order made it clear – the intent of the administration is to implement a Muslim ban, just as Trump promised on the campaign trail. The Trump administration should recognize that no amount of edits or tweaks to the original executive order will undo the discriminatory intent behind this policy.” 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, tonight welcomed the order issued by a federal judge in Hawaii blocking President Trump's new "Muslim Ban 2.0" executive order.

"We welcome this order as confirmation of the strength of our nation's system of checks and balances that prevents one branch of government from violating the Constitution or the rights of any vulnerable group," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "We urge the Trump administration to scrap this Muslim ban entirely because it disrespects both the Constitution and America's longstanding tradition of religious freedom and inclusion."

Seattle judge delays decision on immigrants’ challenge to travel ban

A Seattle federal judge who ruled against President Trump’s first immigrant travel ban has taken a challenge to the president’s revised order under advisement, the Seattle Times reported.

U.S. District Judge James Robart remained skeptical of the government’s continued claims that the president can bar people from immigrating because of their nationality.

Robart heard nearly 90 minutes of arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging the travel order filed by several legal immigrants who are separated from their families and who fear the new order will prolong that separation. Their family members all are in various stages of attempting to obtain visas to enter the U.S.

The lawsuit is separate from those filed by several states, including Washington, challenging the travel ban.

Robart in February halted enforcement nationwide of the immigration ban in a lawsuit brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota.

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Executive Editor: Abdus Sattar Ghazali


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