At least five states are banding together in a legal drive to block key elements of President Donald Trump’s second travel ban.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office is filing a motion asking a federal judge in Seattle to rule that an existing injunction against Trump’s earlier travel ban order applies to parallel portions of the president’s new directive, which he signed Monday.
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“We’re asserting that the president cannot unilaterally declare himself free of the court’s restraining order and injunction,” Ferguson told reporters at news conference Thursday. “This is not a new lawsuit….It’s our view that that temporary restraining order that we’ve already obtained remains in effect. And the burden is on the federal government to explain why it does not.”
“You cannot tweet your way out of it,” Ferguson added. “It does not work that way in a courtroom.”
Trump’s original order suspended entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries and halted refugee admissions. The new order exempts existing visa holders from travel restrictions and removes one nation—Iraq—from the original list.
The states of Washington and Minnesota obtained the broadest injunction against Trump’s original order last month. Oregon was formally admitted to the case on Thursday.
“We welcome other states joining our efforts,” Ferguson said.
Shortly after Ferguson wrapped up his press conference, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced plans to join the Washington state-led effort.
“President Trump’s latest executive order is a Muslim Ban by another name, imposing policies and protocols that once again violate the Equal Protection Clause and Establishment Clause of the United State[s] Constitution,” Schneiderman said.
“President Trump’s second travel ban remains a discriminatory and unconstitutional attempt to make good on his campaign promise to implement a Muslim ban. We are consolidating our legal efforts and joining fellow states, led by Washington, in continuing to challenge this Administration’s unlawful immigration policies,” Healey said.
The state of Hawaii has filed its own lawsuit challenging Trump’s new order. A judge in Honolulu has scheduled a hearing next Wednesday just hours before the new directive is set to kick in.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said earlier Thursday that officials are confident the new order will withstand all legal challenges.
“We feel confident in how that was crafted and the input that was given,” Spicer said.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the developments.
Ferguson acknowledged that the new order “has been narrowed,” but he added: “That does not mean that it’s cured its constitutional problems.”
Washington state Solicitor General Noah Purcell noted that while the new order exempts existing visa holders, it would still have a negative impact on Washington residents whose spouses are overseas without current visas as well as on state universities’ ability to attract students and visitors. He noted that the federal government offered the 9th Circuit the chance to narrow U.S. District Court Judge James Robart’s injunction, but the appeals court declined.
“A lot of people who the 9th Circuit said are covered by this injunction are still harmed by the new executive order,” Purcell said.
Purcell said lawyers plan to again highlight for the judge that senior White House officials have said the new order is intended to pursue the same goals as the original one.
“We are pointing to the fact that the president’s senior advisers have been saying that this is the same basic policy as the order that was enjoined,” Purcell added. “That’s a relevant piece of information for the judge to consider when deciding whether to allow the government to implement this revised order.”
Washington state lawyers said the motion to enforce the injunction will be filed Thursday afternoon. An amended complaint asserting that the new injunction is unconstitutional is likely to be filed early next week, the attorneys said.