Five Individuals, Council on American-Islamic Relations Join ACLU of Washington Suit Challenging Trump’s Still Unconstitutional Travel Ban

News Release: 
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Five individuals and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have joined the ACLU of Washington suit challenging the Executive Order on Immigration.  The ACLU says that the revised Order signed by Donald Trump on March 6, 2017 is still an unconstitutional ban on Muslims. The class-action lawsuit was filed on February 7 in federal court in the Western District of Washington.

“Cosmetic changes fail to mask the discriminatory intent that pervades the President’s Order. The President promised a Muslim Ban and that’s exactly what the Revised Order is. Our Constitution forbids singling out people who practice a particular religion,” said ACLU of Washington legal director Emily Chiang.

“The Order is bringing misery to the lives of people who have fled war-torn countries, survived brutal conditions in refugee camps, and finally made it to the U.S., some after years of uncertainty and fear. They anxiously wait to be reunited with dearly loved family members who had been cleared for travel prior to the Executive Order and now reasonably fear those family members will never be able to join them here,” said Tana Lin, ACLU-WA cooperating attorney with the firm Keller Rohrback LLP.

The ACLU-WA is representing refugees and asylees who reside in Washington and have filed applications to reunify with their family members who have completed and cleared their final security screenings. Plaintiffs also include people who are Washington state residents here legally but who do not currently have a multiple entry visa. They are now trapped inside the country, unable to visit families in their home countries or carry out education-related travel for fear they will be unable to return to their lives here.

Also represented in the suit are two organizations: The Council on American-Islamic Relations-Washington, whose work has been greatly impacted by the Order’s violation of the First Amendment’s establishment of religion clause; and the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, whose efforts to fulfill its religious mission of serving refugees have been severely harmed by the ban. The suit says the President’s Executive Order on immigration violates the Constitution as well as federal law.

On January 27, the President issued an Executive Order prohibiting entry or re-entry for at least 90 days for all persons of seven predominantly Muslim nations and barring indefinitely the entry of refugees from the designated countries. Relying on the authority of the Order, the State Department that same day summarily revoked all valid non-immigrant and immigrant visas of nationals of the seven countries.

Trump’s Executive Order threw into chaotic uncertainty the lives of tens of thousands of individuals who had been granted valid student and work visas and disrupted the passage to safety for refugees and their families, including women and children who had been victimized by actual terrorists. All had already been subjected to exhaustive and thorough screening by the U.S government. The revised order, targeting six overwhelming Muslim nations, remains unconstitutional. The revised Order has created an unstable, unpredictable, and uncertain situation for all Plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs who joined the suit are the following: 
  • Joseph Doe is a Somali national and legal permanent resident who is married and has three children, whom he has not seen in three years. He and his family fled Somalia during its violent civil war to escape persecution and the risk of being killed because of their clan membership. While trying to reach safety, they spent weeks in the forest without food, and he witnessed the death of his sister from bleeding after she was raped.  Prior to arriving in the U.S., he lived in refugee camps in Kenya for nearly 22 years. He is seeking to have his family join him here, but their travel to the U.S. has been delayed by the Order for at least 120 days and perhaps indefinitely. 
  • James Doe is an Eritrean national and lawful permanent resident who is seeking to reunite with his wife and children, whom he has not seen in three years. He and his family who fled their home country after he was imprisoned because of his political beliefs; he had been kept in an underground prison in Eritrea for five months. In September 2016, he learned that his wife and children had been approved as refugees and would come to the U.S. within 4-5 months. Yet his family’s travel has not been arranged and will now be delayed for at least 120 days; and their medical clearance now has likely expired. 
  • Jack Doe is an Iranian national who is a post-doctorate researcher in Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington. Under the revised Order, he will lose his ability to work after May 31, 2017 and his future employment prospects are already in complete jeopardy as a result of the ban.
  • Jason Doe is an Iranian national who studying Information Systems in a doctorate program at the University of Washington’s School of Business.  As a result of the travel ban, he cannot leave the country for fear he will not be permitted to return and for fear he will be separated from his wife. His research and career will suffer as long as the revised Order is in place.
  • Julia Doe is an Iranian national who is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington. As part of her academic work, she is expected to attend international conferences. Given the uncertainty that remains with the revised Order, she continues to fear that she may be barred from re-entering the U.S. if she leaves, which would prevent her from completing her graduate studies. And for the same reason, she cannot undertake travel to Iran to visit her family, including her ailing grandmother.
  • The Council on American-Islamic Relations-Washington (CAIR-WA) is a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group.  Since the issuance of the Executive Order, CAIR-WA has devoted considerable unplanned-for resources to assist American-Muslim travelers who have experienced unconstitutional questioning by federal agents about their religious values and political views, and to educate the community about its rights. Those whom CAIR serves have experienced first-hand the injuries that result when government openly prefers one religion to another.
Representing the Plaintiffs are ACLU-WA Legal Director Emily Chiang and staff attorney La Rond Baker and ACLU-WA cooperating attorneys Lynn Lincoln Sarko, Tana Lin, and Amy Williams-Derry of Keller Rohrback LLP.