A federal judge in Seattle has partially lifted a Trump administration ban on certain refugees after two advocacy groups argued the policy prevented their clients — all individuals from predominately Muslim countries — from reuniting with family living legally in the United States.
U.S. District Judge James Robart issued a preliminary injunction Saturday ordering the federal government to restart processing the applications of refugees “with a bona fide relationship to a person or entity within the United States.”
The ruling comes after the ACLU of Washington and the group Jewish Family Service filed a lawsuit arguing that President Trump’s order to tighten refugee policy violates a federal statute created by Congress that allows for people admitted as refugees to be able to resettle their children and spouses in the U.S. as long as they satisfy the government’s established vetting process.
“The administration’s policy is ripping apart families and heartlessly keeping refugees who have survived traumatic situations from reuniting with loved ones,” said Enoka Herat, an attorney for ACLU of Washington, after Robart’s ruling.
The injunction comes two months after the Trump administration announced it was replacing a 120-day suspension of refugee admissions with a more restrictive policy that would bar thousands of refugees from entering the United States.
The newer program specifically bars refugees coming from 11 countries that made up 44% of the 53,716 refugees admitted to the U.S. in the 2017 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to a USA TODAY analysis of State Department data.
The 11 countries include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In all but two of the countries on the list — North Korea and South Sudan — Islam is the dominant religion. The new rules also meant an indefinite suspension on the admission of refugees’ family members who had already legally settled in the United States.
In a statement, Department of Justice spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said: “We disagree with the Court’s ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps.”
The plaintiffs in the federal suit filed in Western Washington include two Iraqi men who served the U.S. military as interpreters in Iraq, a transgender women who faces persecution in her home country of Egypt, and a Somali national who has been in admitted to the U.S. as a refugee but whose wife and child have been barred from entering.
The day before Trump issued his executive order, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats sent a memo to Trump saying certain refugees must be banned unless additional security measures are implemented.
But Robart noted in his order that former national security officials — many of whom held “the most senior responsibility within the U.S. government for overseeing the refugee resettlement process” —expressed that they are “unaware of any national security threat that would justify” the Agency Memo.
“In fact, the former officials detailed concretely how the Agency Memo will harm the United States’ national security and foreign policy interests,” Robart added. “Enjoining portions of the Agency Memo will simply restore refuge procedures and programs to the position they were in prior to its issuance, which already includes ‘the most thorough vetting of any travelers to the United States.’”
Source: USA Today