State AG secures halt to travel ban; President challenges court order

By Grace Swanson, WNPA Olympia News Bureau

As a member of the Somali community in the Seattle area, Mohamud Yussuf said he feels relief after President Donald Trump’s travel ban was temporarily halted.

In a court hearing last Friday, U.S. District Judge James Robart ruled in Washington state’s favor and granted a temporary restraining order on Trump’s executive order that applies nationwide.

Although he is a U.S. citizen, Yussuf said he was apprehensive about leaving the country after Trump imposed his order, fearing he might not be able to return.

Twenty years ago Yussuf arrived in Seattle as a Somali refugee and is now the publisher and chief editor of Runta Somali News Magazine, a Somali-English publication based in Seattle. With Somalia as his country of origin, Yussuf said he is regularly questioned when he returns from trips outside the U.S. As a Muslim, he worries what the Trump administration will do next. Along with members of the Somali community, he has concerns about leaving the U.S. He feels a little more confident now that the ban is put on hold.

“Today is a victory for everybody,” he said after the February 3 court hearing.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a request for an emergency stay of the court ruling Saturday evening.

In their motion, Trump’s lawyers asked the court to void Judge Robart’s ruling and resume the travel suspension. Their appeal argued that the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 gives the President the authority to suspend foreign nationals who would be detrimental to the national security of the United States.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Trump administration’s appeal later Saturday night, which means the travel ban remains on hold. Both sides, Washington state and the Trump administration, were asked to submit legal briefs to the court by February 6. The court heard oral arguments on February 7 and is expected to issue a ruling this week.

Imposed on January 27, the President’s executive order bars people with visas from entering the U.S. from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. The Refugee Admissions Program was also suspended for 120 days from the order’s effective date. Judge Robart’s ruling puts both of these provisions temporarily on hold.

The Trump administration has said these measures will help prevent terrorists from entering the United States.

The restraining order, which is the first step in a process to determine the legality of the travel ban, took effect immediately on February 3.

In a statement Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security announced it has suspended parts of the executive order that apply to the ruling, which means travelers who hold passports from the seven previously barred countries may enter the United States. The refugee program also resumes.

Future court hearings address striking down the order permanently.

“I said from the beginning, it’s not the loudest voice that prevails in a courtroom, it’s the Constitution,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a press conference after the court hearing.

Ferguson filed suit against President Trump, the Department of Homeland Security and high-ranking Trump administration officials on January 30 in Seattle’s Federal District Court to halt implementation of the travel ban. The state of Minnesota was added as a plaintiff to the case. Other states are considering joining the suit.

Numerous technology companies, including Apple, Amazon and Expedia, have filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the state’s lawsuit.

During the court hearing Friday, Washington solicitor general Noah Purcell argued that Trump’s order was motivated by religious discrimination toward Muslims, and prevented people in Washington state who are citizens of the countries listed in the travel ban from traveling and working overseas in other countries. The solicitor general represents the Attorney General’s office in both state and federal cases.

Purcell also claimed that state-funded universities, including Washington State University and the University of Washington, would be negatively affected. International students and staff from the seven prohibited countries affiliated with the universities would not be able to travel.

The Trump administration’s lawyer responded that the harm experienced by the universities could be harmful to a student, but not to the state. Department trial of Justice attorney Michelle Bennett said Trump has a right to suspend certain aliens if he feels they are detrimental to the country.

After questioning both attorneys, Judge Robart ruled in the state’s favor.

Arsalan Bukhari is executive director of the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Seattle which, he explains, strives to protect the civil liberties of Muslims and increase the understanding of Islam. He is encouraged by Friday’s ruling.

“It reminds American-Muslims, like all Americans, that the Constitution is the law of the land,” Bukhari said. “No one is above the law, not even the President.”


(This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation. Reach reporter Grace Swanson at grace.swanson47@gmail.com)

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