BALTIMORE: A coalition of Muslim and Iranian- American advocates and a nonpartisan legal institute filed the first lawsuits against the Trump administration's new travel restrictions for citizens of eight countries, including Iran, that was announced late last month.
The suits were filed yesterday in federal courts in New York and Maryland. The Trump administration in September announced the most recent restrictions, which affect citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen â€” and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. They are to go into effect October 18.
One lawsuit, filed yesterday in US District Court for the Southern District of Maryland on behalf of the Iranian Alliance Across Borders and six individuals, argues that restricting travel for citizens of predominantly Muslim countries violates the US Constitution. A second suit, filed hours earlier in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, seeks to compel the State Department to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request and turn over documents submitted to the White House by the Department of Homeland Security detailing the information-sharing practices of foreign countries and justifying the decision to exclude travelers from select countries.
The US Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment yesterday. The White House referred questions to the State Department, which declined to comment on ongoing litigation. President Donald Trump on September 24 issued a proclamation outlining the new travel restrictions.
Administration officials said the latest version is the result of a lengthy process, based on an objective assessment of each country's security situation and willingness to share information with the US. It was the administration's third measure to limit travel after a broad ban that sparked chaos at US airports in January and numerous challenges in courts across the country.
The administration later issued a temporary order after suffering legal setbacks on the earlier attempt at restrictions. The Iranian Alliance Across Borders lawsuit is filed against Trump, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, acting Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan, acting Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services James McCament, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The suit argues that simply adding two countries that are not majority-Muslim to the list is only "an effort to disguise the Proclamation's targeting of Muslims." Such discrimination violates the First Amendment and the Immigration and Nationality Act, the suit says. The group is asking for a nationwide injunction to stop the restrictions from going into effect.