Lawsuit in Detroit challenges Trump’s order

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The American Arab Civil Rights League filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of President’s Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and demanding lawful permanent residents be permitted to return to the United States.

Filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, the lawsuit alleges Trump’s order is unconstitutional because it bans Muslims and Arabs from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

It is the first court action filed in Michigan in the federal court system challenging the president’s order, ACRL attorneys said.

While other lawsuits have been filed outside Michigan and federal stays of Trump’s order have been granted, those apply to those in custody as well as those en route to the United States.

“There is a whole greater number affected by this that are trying to come back and a chilling effect to those who don’t know if they can travel,” said Nabih Ayad, the ACRL’s lead attorney, on Tuesday outside federal court in Detroit.

Ayad estimates the number of green card holder impacted by the ban to be about 100,000 individuals nationally. He did not know a number specific to Michigan.

The lawsuit says “although temporary injunctions were entered in various district courts around the United States, plaintiffs file this present suit due to fact that the existing orders do not encompass green card holders that were not in route or detained by the United States.”

“This complaint addresses green card holders that are attempting to fly back to the United States, or are attempting to fly to the United States, that have either been denied flight or a threat of being denied flight due to the executive order.”

The named plaintiffs are individuals who are lawful permanent residents of the United States, said ACRL officials, and citizens of one of the seven countries subject to the ban in Trump’s executive order.

At least seven of the ACRL’s members affected by the executive order are prepared to be standing witnesses in the case, ACRL attorney said, because they have either “already experienced concrete harms by being denied ability to return to the United States or face a real and immediate threat of not being permitted to travel to Detroit, their place of residence, in violation of U.S. law.”

That includes Samir Almasmari, a lawful permanent resident of the United States since March 2015, who lives in Wayne County. Almasmari, a Muslim and citizen of Yemen, recently attempted to return to the United States from Yemen, Ayad said. He was denied boarding in Egypt to return to the United States.

Nasser Beydoun, ACRL chairman, stated: “If you are truly the commander in chief, then be a commander in chief for all Americans, regardless of their faith. If the president will not preserve the values of our nation, then we will.”

The case, assigned to U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts, was filed against Trump, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and two federal officials.

The State Department was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

Trump’s order, issued on Friday, pauses America’s entire refugee program for four months and indefinitely bans all those from war-ravaged Syria. Federal judges in New York and several other states issued orders that temporarily block the government from deporting people with valid visas who arrived after Trump’s travel ban took effect.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans attended the news conference announcing the lawsuit, saying the order impacts citizens of the county and their ability to travel. Evans said law enforcement has already been reduced by 30 percent in the state.

“What this executive order does is create an imposition on us to be involved in immigration and deportation issues. That is not what local law enforcement does,” Evans said. “It creates a public safety issue.”

On Monday, Trump fired Sally Yates, the acting attorney general and a Democratic appointee, after she refused to defend in court his controversial refugee and immigration ban.

The executive order, temporarily halted the entire U.S. refugee program and banned all entries from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days.

The firing came hours after Yates directed Justice Department attorneys not to defend the executive order, saying she was not convinced it was lawful or consistent with the agency’s “obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”

After the order was announced, protests erupted at airports over the weekend and confusion disrupted travel around the globe. Some of Trump’s top advisers and fellow Republicans privately noted they were not consulted about the policy.

Homeland Security, the agency tasked with implementing much of the refugee ban, clarified that customs and border agents should allow legal residents to enter the country. The Pentagon was trying to exempt Iraqis who worked alongside the U.S. and coalition forces from the 90-day ban on entry from the predominantly Muslim countries.

On Tuesday, a senior U.S. official said 872 refugees will be allowed into the United States this week despite the Trump administration executive order suspending the U.S. refugees program.

Kevin McAleenan, acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, said these refugees would be granted waivers. He said that was allowed for under the order, in instances where refugees were ready for travel and stopping them would cause “undue hardship.”

McAleenan said this was being done in concert with the State Department. He said 872 refugees will be arriving this week and will processed for waivers through the end of the week.