Washington Files First State Lawsuit Against Trump's Immigration Ban
By Jim Brouner
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking to invalidate key provisions of President Trump's executive order temporarily barring all refugees and immigration by citizens of seven majority Muslim countries.
The lawsuit -- the first challenge of Trump's order to be brought by a state -- is backed by declarations from Seattle-based Amazon.com and Bellevue-based Expedia, testifying to negative impacts of Trump's order on their businesses and employees.
"We are a country based on the rule of law. In a courtroom, it is not the loudest voice that prevails. It's the Constitution," Ferguson, a Democrat, said at a news conference in Seattle.
He said his legal team worked through the weekend to prepare the complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court against Trump, the Department of Homeland Security and top administration officials.
The lawsuit says Trump's executive order violates constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and equal protection.
The attorney general was joined by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, who blasted Trump's refugee ban aimed at several war-torn, Muslim majority nations -- and giving precedence to Christians -- as "un-American."
"The fact is that its impact, its cruelty, its clear purpose is an unconscionable religious test," Inslee said, pointing to the executive order's provision prioritizing the admittance of Christian refugees.
State Republican Party Chairman Susan Hutchison defended Trump's order and criticized Ferguson's lawsuit as a publicity stunt designed to gain the support of the "far left" Democratic base.
"Mr. Ferguson basically kicked off his campaign for governor," Hutchison said at a Monday news conference in Bellevue, referring to speculation that Ferguson may be maneuvering to run in 2020.
She also said her "sources" say Inslee is harboring 2020 presidential ambitions.
Hutchison said notwithstanding the demonstrations in Seattle and many cities against Trump's order, most Americans are quietly supportive. "People are seeing through the protests that are all around them and are looking deeper," she said.
Hutchison did agree with critics, including Republican members of Congress, that Trump's order perhaps had been rolled out too quickly.
"I think it was concerning for everybody, including the administration, in that there probably needed to be a little more preparation before the announcement of the order," she said.
Ferguson's 14-page complaint quotes some of Trump's own 2016 campaign statements, including his initial pledge of "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." Such statements are evidence, the lawsuit says, that Trump's executive order was motivated "by animus and a desire to harm a particular group."
The lawsuit notes there are 7,279 noncitizen immigrants in Washington state who are from the seven countries targeted by the executive order.
In declarations supporting the lawsuit, managers for Amazon and Expedia laid out negative impacts on their employees and customers.
Amazon's Ayesha Blackwell-Hawkins, who manages support services for the company's immigrant employees and their families, said in her declaration the company is aware of 49 employees born in the countries named in the executive order, who legally work in the U.S. under visas. Amazon has advised affected employees for now to to avoid traveling outside the U.S.
A Microsoft spokesman said his company also was supportive of the lawsuit and is willing to testify if needed.
While legal challenges already have been brought against Trump's refugee ban, Ferguson said Washington's case is broader in scope and, if successful, could strike some of its key provisions down on a national level.
The lawsuit would seek a temporary restraining order blocking the executive order -- a ruling Ferguson said he hopes will occur swiftly.
Signed on Friday, Trump's order sparked a wave of protests in Western Washington and across the country over the weekend, with huge crowds pouring into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport amid reports that refugees and immigrants from countries targeted by the travel ban were being detained there.
Two men -- citizens of Yemen and Sudan -- were released Sunday morning after being detained at the airport by agents from Customs and Border Protection.
(c)2017 The Seattle Times