Trump’s immigration orders hit with new legal challenges as two cities sue US govt

Legal challenges to President Donald Trump’s first moves to restrict the flow of people into the United States spread on Tuesday as Massachusetts and San Francisco sued to challenge two of his early executive orders.

world Updated: Feb 03, 2017 16:34 IST
Boston/San Francisco
President Trump,Trump's Muslim ban,US immigration
Demonstrators gathered outside of The United States Supreme Court.(AFP Photo)

Legal challenges to President Donald Trump’s first moves to restrict the flow of people into the United States spread on Tuesday as Massachusetts and San Francisco sued to challenge two of his early executive orders.

San Francisco became the first US city to sue to challenge a Trump directive to withhold federal money from US cities that have adopted sanctuary policies toward undocumented immigrants, which local officials argue help local police by making those immigrants more willing to report crimes.

Massachusetts joined the legal battle against Trump’s order banning travel into the United States by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, a move the White House described as necessary to improve national security. A lawsuit contends that the order violated the US Constitution’s guarantees of religious freedom.

The legal manoeuvres were the latest acts of defiance against executive orders signed by Trump last week that sparked a wave of protests in major US cities, where thousands of people decried the new president’s actions as discriminatory.

Both policies are in line with campaign promises by Republican businessman-turned-politician Trump, who vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration and to take hard-line steps to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit over Trump’s order cutting funds to cities with sanctuary policies, a move that could stop the flow of billions of dollars in aid to major US population centres also including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

“If allowed to be implemented this executive order would make our communities less safe. It would make our residents less prosperous, and it would split families apart,” Herrera said.

Sanctuary cities adopt policies that limit cooperation, such as refusing to comply with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests. Advocates of the policies say that, beyond helping police with crime reporting, they make undocumented immigrants more willing to serve as witnesses if they do not fear that contact with law enforcement will lead to their deportation.

Both the San Francisco and Massachusetts actions contend that Trump’s orders in question violate the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution, which states that powers not granted to the federal government should fall to the states.

Michael Hethmon, senior counsel with the conservative Immigration Reform Law Institute in Washington, called the San Francisco lawsuit a “silly political gesture,” noting that prior federal court decisions make clear that the US government “can prohibit a policy that essentially impedes legitimate federal programs.”

Establishment clause

Massachusetts contended the restrictions on US entry by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries run afoul of the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits religious preference.

“At bottom, what this is about is a violation of the Constitution,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said of the order halting travel by people with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. The order also barred resettlement of refugees for 120 days and indefinitely banned Syrian refugees.

“It discriminates against people because of their religion, it discriminates against people because of their country of origin,” Healey said at a Boston press conference, flanked by leaders from the tech, healthcare and education sectors who said that the order could limit their ability to attract and retain highly educated workers.

Massachusetts will be backing a lawsuit filed over the weekend in Boston federal court by two Iranian men who teach the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. A federal judge blocked the government from expelling those men from the country and halted enforcement of the order for seven days, following similar but more limited moves in four other states.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, like Trump a Republican, said he supported the lawsuit, calling the executive order “an abrupt and overwhelming decision.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday said the state was joining a similar lawsuit filed in its federal courts challenging the ban.

In Colorado, a Libyan national who attends the Community College of Denver filed a separate federal lawsuit on Tuesday seeking to have a judge issue an injunction barring the executive order from being enforced.

First Published: Feb 01, 2017 10:53 IST