The state of Washington has asked a federal court to extend a national injunction so that it halts Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, as the coalition of Democratic-led states challenging the president’s controversial order continues to grow.
The motion, filed in a district court in Seattle on Monday morning, argues that core parts of Trump’s new ban essentially reinstate parts of the old order, which was chaotically rolled out by the administration in January and was subsequently blocked with a restraining order by the US district court judge James Robart. Robart’s ruling was unanimously upheld by a federal appeals court in February.
Also on Monday, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California announced that she had introduced a bill with 36 other Democrats to repeal the travel ban through Congress, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a new challenge against the policy.
Trump’s revised order, announced last week, bans visa approvals from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and suspends the US refugee resettlement program for 120 days but includes new exemptions and removes language that singled out religious minorities and certain nationalities. Robart’s restraining order had prevented Trump from implementing similar tenets of his old order, including suspension of the refugee program and banning entry for individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The motion to halt this new order argues that the administration “cannot evade the injunction by announcing that it will continue only some of the illegal policies”, adding: “The court should reject this attempt to evade its authority and should exercise its broad power to enforce its injunction.”
It also points to interviews given by senior administration officials, including the president’s senior adviser Stephen Miller and press secretary Sean Spicer, who have publicly stated that the second order would achieve “the same basic policy outcome” as the first order.
The ACLU complaint, filed Monday afternoon in California on behalf of several people impacted by the ban, alleges that Trump’s order has circumvented federal laws, exceeded his constitutional authority and discriminated based on nationality.
The Washington case has become the focal point of resistance to Trump’s revised order, with the Democratic-led states of Minnesota and Oregon already part of the challenge and the states of New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and California requesting to join the legal action.
The new motion sets up a prospective last-minute showdown with the federal government. In reply, Judge Robart instructed justice department attorneys to respond by Tuesday, with a hearing potentially lined up for Wednesday, the day before the new order goes into effect. A separate challenge lodged by the state of Hawaii is also due to be heard in federal court on Wednesday.
“No one is above the law, not even the President – and I will hold him accountable to the Constitution,” said Washington state’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, in a statement issued on Monday.
Ferguson had initially announced his request for an extension of the restraining order last week, but was informed by Robart that he would need to make a formal request to the court.
The new motion contains dozens of examples of people and institutions from the states involved who are caught up in Trump’s new ban, including families torn apart by the order, educational institutions that say they will suffer as a result, and local business and religious organizations that will also be affected.
“When President Trump issued the first Executive Order, it immediately tore families apart, causing significant stress and financial hardships,” the motion states. “Many families will suffer a similar fate under the second Executive Order. They will be unable to reunite with relatives, receive visits and plan for the future.”
The ACLU is representing Eric Miller, a University of California physics graduate student who is collaborating with an Iranian scientist. The researcher was supposed to visit the US in April but would be barred by the ban.
The complaint was also filed on behalf of a California woman who recently married a Syrian national living in the United Arab Emirates.
“She can’t begin her married life with him,” Julia Harumi Mass, ACLU senior staff attorney, said in an interview. “It’s obviously extremely disruptive and harmful.”
The suit claims that the executive order violates the plaintiffs’ free exercise of religion and their equal-protection and due process rights.
“The new executive order was motivated by the same anti-Muslim bigotry as the original,” Mass said. “It’s still prejudice, because it’s still targeting people based on not what they’ve done and not the actual threats they pose, but the countries they are from.”
Other plaintiffs in the suit include a native of Iran and US permanent resident, whose wife is barred entry under the ban, as well as a nonprofit organization that serves refugees.
Feinstein has not yet revealed the details of her bill to seek repeal of the order. But in January, after Trump’s first order, she introduced two bills in Congress that she said were intended to prevent Trump from blocking entire categories of immigrants unilaterally.