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U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily suspending the refugee program and banning immigration from certain countries is headed to court after two new lawsuits were filed Monday.
Members of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District Court of Virginia, while Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filled a legal action within the District Court for the Western District of Washington to declare unconstitutional key provisions of Trump's immigration order.
CAIR told reporters the lawsuit is a "broad constitutional challenge" on behalf of more than 20 people, both Americans and non-citizens, that are lawfully residing in the United States.
Lena Masri, CAIR litigation director, called Trump's order a Muslim exclusion order designed "to strategically deny Muslims entry into the United States regardless if they are U.S. citizens, regardless of whether they are green card holders or if they have lawful status."
Trump's order halts immigration for 90 days from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It also suspends the entry of all refugees to the U.S. for 120 days, and halts admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely.
The order says the moves are intended "to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States."
But Masri said the untold story is that the decree is a "Muslim exclusion order" in that it is designed to "strategically target Muslims and deny them entry in the United States."
In a statement released Sunday, Trump defended his administration against that charge. "This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order."
Masri went on to say that the order also targets Muslims fleeing persecution in their home countries who have been approved under the now-halted U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program.
"[They] would be forced to return, despite the fact that they may be likely to be tortured, persecuted and even executed. ... The Muslim exclusion order stands contrary to our values as American citizens, contrary to our U.S. constitution," Masri said.
Keeping ahead of the threat
In Washington, Ferguson said he filed a motion for a temporary restraining order seeking an "immediate" halt of the order.
"No one is above the law - not even the president. ... And in the courtroom, it is not the loudest voice that prevails, it's the Constitution," Ferguson said.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday there has been no "specific threat," but the order aims to get ahead of the possible threat.
Reports from federal authorities indicate at least 170 people have been detained since Trump signed his order Friday at the White House.
The order has led to widespread confusion as refugees, green card holders, students and workers were detained at American airports or barred from boarding international flights to the United States.
Source: Voice of America