Donald Trump’s immigration agenda is back in court with a challenge to his October ban on refugees from 11 countries — before a judge who didn’t rule to the president’s liking in the past.
Nine of the countries on the list account for 80 percent of the Muslim refugees entering the U.S., leading resettlement agencies and civil rights groups to claim the policy is driven by an “irrational prejudice against refugees in general” and religious animus against Muslims.
Earlier versions of the president’s travel ban that included a worldwide suspension of refugee admissions were blocked by judges until the Supreme Court ruled in June that the restrictions could be enforced for immigrants who didn’t have ties to family members or institutions in the U.S. The high court this month removed that condition when it said Trump’s latest bar on entry for travelers from half a dozen Mideast and North African nations, as well as North Korea and Venezuela, can take full effect while the litigation plays out.
The refugee ban — which covers Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and North Korea — is now a separate directive from the restrictions on travelers.
Among those asking a Seattle federal judge Thursday to temporarily block the refugee ban is a Somali national forced into a Kenyan refugee camp for 20 years by civil war. He married, had three children, then won admission to the U.S. as a refugee in 2014. Two years later, his children and wife were also granted refugee status, but they weren’t able to travel to the U.S. before Trump issued his initial executive order.
“The harms to plaintiffs and others like them have been swift, irreparable and will only intensify,” lawyers for the family said in a court filing. “The message to Muslims in this country and around the world is clear: You are not welcome here.”
The Justice Department says the suspension of refugee entries isn’t indefinite and only applies to nations that don’t adequately screen travelers to ensure they don’t pose a security risk to the U.S.
The policy “merely provides for a pause in admissions while the agencies align their screening and vetting procedures,” according to a government filing. The policy will “result in some delay in the processing of refugees, but no refugee applicant is entitled to have his or her application processed at any particular pace.”
The dispute will be heard by U.S. District Judge James Robart, who issued one of the earliest orders halting Trump’s January travel ban, which caused chaos at U.S. points of entry after being introduced without notice. Afterward, Trump took to Twitter to slam Robart, a 2004 appointee of Republican President George W. Bush. “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” the president tweeted.
The case is Doe v. Trump, 17-cv-00178, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington (Seattle).
(Updates with countries covered by ban in fourth paragraph.)
–With assistance from Alexandria Arnold
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.