By Chloe Marina Manchester
On January 30, 2017 Washington State Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, and Governor Jay Inslee filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump, in his capacity as president, Homeland Security, The United States of America, and several high ranking members of the Trump administration, include acting Secretary of State, Tom Shannon. The lawsuit is regarding the executive order, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, better known as the “immigration ban” or “the Muslim ban” signed by President Trump on January 28.
The lawsuit claims that the executive order violates the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, specifically the due process clause, as well as the First Amendment’s Establishment clause. The lawsuit specifically states, “The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the federal government from officially preferring one religion over another. Sections 3 and 5 of the Executive Order, together with statements made by Defendants concerning their intent and application, are intended to disfavor Islam and favor Christianity. Through their actions above, Defendants have violated the Establishment I Clause of the First Amendment. Defendants’ violation causes ongoing harm to Washington residents.”
In an attempt to prove that this travel and immigration ban was specifically targeted towards Muslims, which is unconstitutional, Washington state cited claims and campaign promises that Donald Trump made before he was elected to the presidency, including the promise that Trump would institute a ban on Muslims if elected. Many are saying that he followed through on that campaign promise with the executive order he signed less than a week after his inauguration.
One of the first things that Washington must do in pursuit of this lawsuit is to prove that the state is the right party to bring this to court. The Attorney General must prove that Trump’s executive order is doing harm to the state. Inslee says that there are economic consequences for Washington companies, as well as harm done to Washington State University and the University of Washington, as both colleges have a high number of students from countries affected by the travel ban. The lawsuit explicitly states, “The University of Washington and Washington State University are the two largest public research universities in the State. More than 95 students from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen attend the University of Washington, based in Seattle. More than 135 students from those countries attend Washington State University, based in Pullman.”
The lawsuit seeks a declaration from a federal judge to overturn the executive order as illegal and unconstitutional. Ferguson said, in a morning press conference on January 30, “[The executive order] violates the rule of law and I will not put up with it.” Inslee, beside Ferguson at the press conference, added “[The order’s] impact, its cruelty, its clear purpose is an unconscionable religious test, and its effect in America is that it’s unconstitutional,” he went on. “The clear intent of this executive order is to discriminate against one faith amongst all God’s children.”
Judge James L. Robart, a US district judge in Seattle, granted a temporary restraining order Friday, February 3 that stopped key elements of Trump’s executive order from being enforced nationwide. Trump then attacked Judge Robart over Twitter, saying “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!” The DOJ lawyers made a request to block Judge Robart’s decision, saying ““The injunction immediately harms the public by thwarting enforcement of an Executive Order issued by the President, based on his national security judgment.” Not one to feel left out, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, in an interview with Fox News, “it’s somewhat sad to see a judge go rogue like this.” Subsequently, Donald Trump said, “I don’t ever want to call a court biased, but courts seem to be so political, and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right.” Speaking to a gathering of sheriffs and police chiefs in DC.
Inslee and Ferguson both said that they will not be intimidated by Trump, or his administration, into backing down. “Trump may have his alternative facts, but alternative facts don’t work in a courtroom.” said Inslee, this statement ringing true last Thursday when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the State of Washington, siding with the ruling of a lower court, upholding the stay on Trump’s travel ban and citing it as unconstitutional. Though Trump has since said both that he will take the suit into the Supreme Court and that he will amend the executive order to work around the the suit. Ferguson has also said that he will look into legal options regarding Trump’s statements and threats towards sanctuary cities.
On February 3, outside of a Seattle courthouse, Ferguson said, “The law is a powerful thing. It has the ability to hold everybody accountable to it and that includes the president of the United States.”
Nearly 100 companies, Minnesota, and former Secretaries of State (including Madeleine Albright and John Kerry) have joined the lawsuit. On Monday, February 6 Oregon asked to join as well. Oregon also joined 15 other states in filing an amicus brief, or friend of the court, in support of the lawsuit. In the amicus brief written by those states, they stated “Although the amici States’ residents, institutions, industries, and economies differ in various ways, we now all stand together in facing concrete, immediate and irreparable harms from the Executive Order.”
Despite this show of solidarity, many are still wondering whether a Supreme court ruling in their favor will really change anything, and some are concerned that considering his track record, Trump may ignore the ruling entirely. An additional concern that has been raised is the prospect of law enforcement agencies siding with the Executive, rather than the Judicial branch of government, continuing to enforce this ban even if it has been deemed unconstitutional. Examples of this are already popping up with the recent raids conducted by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), the majority of which are in “sanctuary cities.” Though ICE claims these raids were routine in nature, Donald Trump has credited them to himself, saying on Twitter that, “The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!”
The Governor’s Office did not respond to an interview request before this article went to print.