Mich. groups challenge Trump’s revised travel ban

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The Arab-American Civil Rights League and ACLU of Michigan have filed an amended federal lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s revised executive order limiting travel from six predominantly Muslim countries.

The 104-page complaint for declaratory and injunctive release was filed Thursday in Detroit’s U.S. District Court on behalf of those groups as well as three Michigan-based ones: the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, Arab American and Chaldean Council, the Arab American Studies Association.

It followed a similar filing targeting the original presidential directive in late January and came a day after the updated one was paused by a federal judge in Hawaii who questioned whether national security concerns motivated the administration.

“Our position has not changed with the revision of the first executive order on immigration,” ACRL Director Rula Aoun said in a statement. “We still see this as an unconstitutional ban on Muslims entering the United States and we will not cease our challenge because the new order effectively maintains the same illegal policies of the first executive order.”

The listed plaintiffs include Muslims from Yemen unable to join their families; a Sudanese man waiting to be married; and a 2-year-old girl stranded in Malaysia with her mother.

Their lawyers argue many issues remain with the newer executive order, which was to have gone into effect Thursday — blocking new visas for people from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen while temporarily halting the U.S. refugee program.

“Like the January 27 Order, the March 6 Order violates cherished constitutional protections: the guarantee that the government will not establish, favor, discriminate against, or condemn any religion; the guarantee of freedom of speech and association; and the guarantee of equal protection of the laws,” the filing read. “ ...The March 6 Order flies in the face of our historical commitment to welcome and protect people of all faiths, and no faith.”

The first order “was intentionally designed to target Muslims, discriminate against Muslims, and disparage Islam,” attorneys wrote, and even with revisions, “the latest has the same effect as it predecessor … and it reinforces stereotypes about Muslims by associating them with terrorism, violence, bigotry and hatred.”

The White House has defended the measure as necessary for national security and preventing potential terrorists from entering. To underscore the aim, administration officials have disclosed that the FBI has about 1,000 ongoing probes into potential domestic terrorists inspired or motivated by the Islamic State group, besides 300 individuals who entered the United States as refugees and were under investigation for possible terrorism-related activities.

Government attorneys also argued that the ban was revised substantially to address legal concerns, including the removal of an exemption for religious minorities from the affected countries. Unlike the original order, the new one says current visa holders won’t be affected and allows entry of refugees the State Department already formally scheduled for travel during the 120-day resettlement stop.

But the Michigan suit claims the order fails to advance national security and “identifies only two concrete examples of persons who have committed terrorism-related crimes in the United States.” It also does not recognize that immigrants and refugees are already carefully screened, attorneys wrote.

“Many alternatives exist that do not involve targeting individuals based on their faith or nationality as a proxy for faith, are less restrictive than the March 6 Executive Order, and are more closely tailored to legitimate national security concerns,” the court document read.

The complaint asks that a judge declare the order unlawful and invalid.

Michael J. Steinberg, legal director at the ACLU of Michigan, referred to the directive as a “Muslim Ban 2.0.”

“Nobody should be banned from this country because of the way they pray,” he said.