Updated at 4:06 p.m. ET
Washington state is asking a federal judge to apply the restraining order that temporarily halted President Trump’s initial travel ban to the revised ban he signed Monday.
In an announcement Thursday, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson contended that Judge James Robart’s Feb. 3 ruling — which suspended Trump’s first ban nationwide until a challenge brought by Washington and Minnesota could be heard in court — ought to cover the second ban, despite revisions that narrowed who would be affected. The new ban is currently slated to go into effect on March 16.
Attorneys general for New York, Massachusetts and Oregon also declared their intention Thursday to formally join Washington and Minnesota’s legal challenge to the ban.
“The bottom line is that the court issued, and we obtained, a temporary restraining order on the original executive order,” Ferguson told NPR’s Robert Siegel ahead of the announcement. “Yes, the revised one is more narrow — that’s a success. But the core constitutional problems remain the same.”
Ferguson added: “The intent behind the executive order targeting those Muslim countries still remains, and that is unconstitutional.”
The original executive order, issued in January, temporarily barred citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries — as well as all refugees — from entering the United States. Many of the ban’s critics, including Ferguson, argued that it violated the Constitution by specifically targeting immigrants of a single faith.
The revised executive order adopted a narrower scope in a bid to soften some of its more controversial parts. It dropped Iraq from the list of banned countries — while keeping Syria, Libya, Somalia, Iran, Yemen and Sudan on there — and clarified that those legal residents who already have visas can still come to the U.S.
But Ferguson is not convinced the changes are substantial enough to resolve their earlier complaints.
“Is it a narrower group of people who are impacted by the travel ban, the revised one? You bet,” Ferguson told NPR. “But just because it’s a smaller number of individuals who are impacted, that doesn’t mean you can solve a constitutional problem of the magnitude that the revised ban still has.”
In a statement released Thursday, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey echoed Ferguson’s concerns:
“President Trump’s second travel ban remains a discriminatory and unconstitutional attempt to make good on his campaign promise to implement a Muslim ban. We are consolidating our legal efforts and joining fellow states, led by Washington, in continuing to challenge this Administration’s unlawful immigration policies.”
And so the beating heart of Washington’s challenge remains the same.
“The test is whether or not a motivating factor behind the travel ban was an improper religious bias against Muslims,” Ferguson said. “That doesn’t mean in some other context with immigration, he doesn’t have broad powers. He does.
“But for this particular travel ban, he’s going to run into this problem over and over again.”
Washington’s request is separate from the new lawsuit that the state of Hawaii filed Wednesday against Trump’s new executive order.
Yet as NPR’s Laurel Wamsley noted, the lawsuit also argues that despite the change in language, the new executive order “is infected with the same legal problems as the first Order — undermining bedrock constitutional and statutory guarantees.”
For more about Trump’s executive orders on immigration, read the rest of our coverage here.
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