SHAFAQNA – A group of Michiganders, including a Yemeni student and a Syrian seeking to become a permanent U.S. resident, are among those who Monday filed a legal challenge to President Donald Trump’s order suspending the entry of refugees and others from several majority-Muslim nations.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Virginia, wants a ruling blocking enforcement of Trump’s executive order signed Friday, saying it discriminates against Muslims and violates protections for the free exercise of faith and prohibitions on governmental establishment of religion. It also says people affected by the order are being denied due process of law.
Referring to the order as a “Muslim Exclusion Order,” the complaint — which includes 27 plaintiffs from across the U.S. — says it “implements an impermissible religious gerrymander that divides foreign nationals, even those lawfully present inside the United States, into favored and disfavored groups based on their faith.”
“Make no mistake, the First Amendment of our Constitution was attacked last week,” said Shereef Akeel, a Troy civil rights lawyer who is one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which comes as other lawsuits have been filed across the country seeking to block the order.
On Friday, Trump signed an executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” saying it was necessary to suspend for at least four months the resettlement of refugees from around the world — and those from Syria indefinitely; and for at least 90 days block entry of visa holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Over the weekend, protests broke out in cities around the country, even as judges in New York City and elsewhere prohibited the Trump administration from returning people whom had already come into the U.S. to their countries of origin. The Department of Homeland Security also clarified that barring any significant information of a threat, legal permanent residents — so-called “green card” holders — would be permitted to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad.
That still left unclear what would happen to others planning travel or whom have already traveled abroad and want to return on visas for students, workers, business people, entertainers, athletes and others. Under the letter of the order, it appeared they could not re-enter the nation.
Trump said the order was necessary because of “deteriorating conditions in certain countries” that make it likely that “terrorists will use any means possible” to enter the country to attack it. The Trump administration also has rejected claims that it has proposed a ban on Muslims — saying it only suspends entry from nations the Obama administration had previously said needed more scrutiny.
That argument, however, obscures the fact that the Obama administration still allowed entry on a case-by-case basis after additional scrutiny, and did not move to limit refugee resettlements as Trump has; and the Obama administration did not issue a blanket suspension while promising priority for entry to religious minorities facing persecution in those countries — presumably meaning Christians.
Among Michigan plaintiffs were an unnamed Muslim of Yemeni heritage living in Wayne County who has a student visa but now, because of the order, can’t leave the U.S. and visit his home if he has hopes of returning. Another unnamed plaintiff, a Syrian granted asylum in Wayne County, fears she cannot gain lawful permanent residency in the U.S. under the order — her application is pending — and may no longer be able to renew her work authorization. She, too, would be denied re-entry if she left the U.S.
Others from Michigan named in the lawsuit were: an unnamed imam in Oakland County who worries he would not be able to re-enter the U.S. if he left, despite having lawful permanent resident status; former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit; Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan chapter; and Namira Islam of Oakland County, executive director of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative.