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July 10, 2019

ACLU/ACRL Lawsuit Challenging Ban Moves Forward


DETROIT – Today, U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan Judge Victoria A. Roberts allowed a lawsuit to go forward challenging President Trump’s Muslim Ban, which bars immigration and travel from certain predominantly Muslim countries. The lawsuit, Arab American Civil Rights League et al v. Donald Trump et al, challenges the Muslim Ban as unconstitutional religious discrimination. The court found that there was enough evidence to believe that the ban can only be explained by prejudice against Muslims.

“Today the court recognized what we have known all along,” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney. “This was a Muslim Ban the first time, a Muslim Ban the second time, and a Muslim Ban the third time. No amount of wordsmithing changes the fact that this mean-spirited policy was specifically designed to keep people out of the United States based on how they worship.”

The lawsuit was originally filed in January 2017 after President Trump’s signed an Executive Order banning entry into the United States by citizens from certain Muslim majority countries. After federal courts ruled that the ban was unconstitutional religious discrimination, President Trump issued a second ban in March 2017, which the courts also found unconstitutional.

In September 2017, President Trump issued a third version of the ban. In June 2018, the Supreme Court in Trump v. Hawaii, ruled 5-4 that ban could continue while its legality is being challenged, and said that those challenging the Ban would need to show that it could only be explained by prejudice towards Muslims. 

Judge Roberts said that the government misunderstood the United States Supreme Court’s Hawaii decision.  That decision says that excluding people from the United States would be permissible if grounded in national security concerns, but not if exclusions are based on unconstitutional grounds.  In denying the government’s motion to dismiss, Judge Roberts wrote, “the Plaintiffs present sufficient evidence that the Proclamation is unable to be explained by anything but animus towards Muslims.”

“Religious freedom is fundamental to who we are as Americans and to the liberties our Constitution protects,” said Jason Raofield, a partner at Covington & Burling.  “The court’s ruling is clear: religious bigotry against Muslims cannot justify banning them from this country.”

Judge Roberts’ opinion recounts President Trump’s repeated calls for a “Muslim Ban”, and then concludes that it is reasonable to believe that the Executive Order rests on “an irrational prejudice against Muslims… especially considering that President Trump admitted that the ‘Muslim ban’ only morphed into ‘extreme vetting’ because ‘people were so upset’ when he vociferously discriminated against Muslims.”

The lawsuit was brought by impacted families and a broad coalition of nonprofit and business groups: the Arab American Civil Rights League, the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, the Arab American Studies Association – all based in Dearborn — and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and the Arab American and Chaldean Council, based in Detroit.

“Nothing can undo the extraordinary suffering this cruel policy has caused millions of families who have been separated needlessly from their loved ones,” said Rula Aoun, director of the Arab-American Civil Rights League (ACRL). “But today’s court decision is a victory for the Muslim community across the globe and for all people who oppose religious discrimination and bigotry in all its forms.”

In addition to attorneys with ACRL and ACLU, the plaintiffs in the case are represented by a team of attorneys from the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP, and University of Michigan Law School professor Margo Schlanger.