Muslim advocacy group CAIR sues Trump over immigration ban

By Nona Tepper, Medill News Service   |   Updated Jan. 31, 2017 at 11:14 AM
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The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of more than 20 people challenging President Donald Trump's immigration ban on seven Muslim-majority countries as a First Amendment violation.

The Muslim advocacy agency said Trump's executive order singles out one religion, which could lead to the expulsion of all Muslims living in the United States when their legal status expires.

Trump signed the executive order Friday prohibiting Muslims from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days. A federal judge in Brooklyn issued the first injunction temporarily blocking implementation of part of the ban on Saturday. Judges in Virginia, Washington state, Texas and California followed suit.

"Five judges have had the opportunity to weigh on the constitutionality of this executive order, and we're batting five for five," said Gadeir Abbas, one of the attorneys who filed the suit. "Five have found constitutional problems with this executive order so we hope to put an end to it once and for all."

The Muslim advocacy organization's suit, filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia, alleged Trump's executive order violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which states the government cannot endorse one religion over another. CAIR said none of the more than 20 plaintiffs were detained over the weekend.

Another purpose of the executive order is "the mass expulsion of immigrant and non-immigrant Muslims lawfully residing in the United States by denying them the ability to renew their lawful status or receive immigration benefits," the lawsuit reads.

CAIR officials said they chose the federal court in a Virginia suburb close to D.C. because it is known for acting quickly.

"It takes two years for a Syrian refugee to come to the U.S. They are extremely vetted," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. "So eventually Donald Trump's executive order is not based on national security. It is based on fear mongering. He is still in the campaign mode."

Shereef Akeel, another CAIR attorney involved in the suit, said Trump's executive order sets a dangerous standard for extremist groups: If the United States prefers one religion over another, they can, too.

"That's giving them a gift," Akeel said.

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