ACLU and county residents join in fight against Trump travel ban
The American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs, including several county residents, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Maryland’s Southern Division against President Donald J. Trump and members of his administration, including Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The suit challenges Trump’s recent travel ban, alleging it is unconstitutional.
Plaintiffs allege the ban “violates the Constitution - including the First Amendment's prohibition of government establishment of religion and the Fifth Amendment's guarantees of equal treatment under the law - and federal laws,” according to a ACLU news release.
Although the words “Muslim ban” are not in the executive order, Trump included in the order a 90-day ban on trips from seven countries in which a majority of the population is Muslim.
Plaintiffs say Trump said on numerous occasions that he intended to prevent people of the Islamic faith from entering the country.
“Contemporaneous statements made by President Trump and his advisors around the signing of the Executive Order confirm President Trump’s intent to discriminate against Muslims,” plaintiffs wrote. “For instance, during the signing ceremony for the order, President Trump made clear that the order was targeted at Muslims, pledging that it would ‘keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America.’”
A few of the plaintiffs who say they were affected by the executive order are legal residents of Montgomery County, according to the lawsuit.
Plaintiff Allan Hakky is a U.S. citizen of Iraqi origin who lives in Potomac with his wife, who is also a U.S. citizen, according to the lawsuit. He became a citizen in 1996, but immigrated to the U.S. from the United Kingdom in 1991. He is also a Shia Muslim.
Plaintiff Samaneh Takaloo, a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin, lives in Chevy Chase, according to the lawsuit. She arrived in the U.S. on a K-1 fianceé visa from Iran in 2010 and became a U.S. citizen in June 2015. She works as a sales associate in Washington, D.C.
Some plaintiffs did not give their names. Plaintiff John Doe No. 1 is a lawful permanent resident of Montgomery County who came to the U.S. three years ago on an exchange visitor visa, according to the lawsuit. He obtained permanent resident status through the National Interest Waiver program for people with extraordinary abilities. He is a scientist who, according to the lawsuit, has scholarly work that is pioneering in science. He and his wife, who is not part of the lawsuit, are non-practicing Muslims.
“President Trump's Muslim ban is unconstitutional,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. “Appropriately, the government is currently prohibited from implementing the executive order, and the plaintiffs in this case stand ready to take further action to protect their rights."
Justin Cox, an attorney from the National Immigration Law Center who is representing the plaintiffs, said that while several of the plaintiffs live in Maryland, many people from across the country have contacted various law centers represented in the lawsuit after the executive order created problems for either them or their family members entering the country.
Plaintiffs include legal residents of the country, such as U.S. citizens, green card holders and refugees, Cox said.
Cox said Trump’s executive order is “relatively unusual” because of the number of ways it tries to change policies or alter their application.
“It uses parts of the law in ways that have never been used before,” Cox said. “There’s a part of federal law that lets the president issue a proclamation that certain noncitizens are not allowed in the country.”
“No one has ever said no one from this country is allowed in,” he added, regarding the 90-day restriction on Muslim-majority countries.
He said the executive order conflicts with principles of the U.S. constitution.
“It’s also extremely unusual, also unprecedented… (to) try to use an executive order to intentionally discriminate against people of a particular faith, here against Muslims,” Cox said. He said the International Refugee Assistant Project of the Urban Justice Center Inc. has been in the center of the process of the lawsuit in its development. Representatives of the project have been contacted by immigrants, U.S. citizens and refugees seeking assistance.