The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the attorney general of Washington State each filed lawsuits on Monday against Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven majority-Muslim nations, calling it “an unconstitutional religious test.”
As of Monday afternoon, five federal judges had already ruled against parts of the policy. Yet White House press secretary Sean Spicer shrugged off new legal challenges. “I think the government did a phenomenal job,” he told reporters on Monday. “We feel pretty confident that if there are any problems, we will prevail.”
Those suing to overturn the policy are equally confident.
One of the lead attorneys for CAIR’s lawsuit, Gadeir Abbas, said Monday: “The Constitution bans what Donald Trump has done.”
“The very first amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from favoring one faith over another,” he explained at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “It’s also a public display of anti-Muslim sentiment, which is a violation of the Establishment Clause.”
“The Constitution bans what Donald Trump has done.”
CAIR is representing a group of Muslim U.S. citizens and non-citizens who they say are harmed by the policy. Several are lawful permanent residents who now cannot leave the country out of fear of being barred from returning. Some have been separated from their spouses and children by the policy. The case was filed Monday at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Responding to President Trump’s recent insistence that the order is not a “Muslim ban,” the lawsuit states: “The Muslim Exclusion Order is the as‐promised outcome of Defendant Trump’s hateful, year‐long campaign which was fueled, in significant part, by a desire to stigmatize Islam and Muslims.”
CAIR’s national executive director Nihad Awad, one of the plaintiffs, argued Monday that the policy will lead to greater Islamophobia in the United States.
“It gives a green light for people to go after and discriminate against Muslims,” he said. “It endangers our well-being and safety. This executive order is not based on national security. It is based on fear mongering.”
Over the past year, as Trump won first the Republican Party nomination and then the presidency, hate crimes against Muslims spiked across the United States. Women wearing hijab headscarves were harassed and assaulted in public. Muslim travelers were pulled off planes after other passengers complained about their presence. Mosques were vandalized and set on fire.
Abbas said he is concerned the new executive order will only exacerbate these attacks by sending the message that Muslims are inherently dangerous.
“Every Muslim feels the stigma this executive order imposes upon them,” he said. “My friends, my family, are feeling the fear and the bigotry this executive order perpetuates.”