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Karl A. Racine
Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia

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Coalition of 15 Attorneys General File Amicus Brief Supporting Washington State Lawsuit against President Trump’s Executive Order

Monday, February 6, 2017
Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts Co-Author Brief Outlining Order’s Impact on Residents, Economies and Institutions

WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today said he was pleased to join a coalition of 15 state attorneys general in filing of a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the states of Washington and Minnesota in their federal lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s executive order on immigration. The order would impose a temporary ban on any entry into the United States by refugees, visitors or temporary residents from seven nations with majority-Muslim populations.

In a 23-page amici curiae brief filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the attorneys general signatories declared: “Although the amici States’ residents, institutions, industries, and economies differ in various ways, we now all stand together in facing concrete, immediate and irreparable harms from the Executive Order.”

The amicus brief was signed by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. It follows other legal action by state attorneys general to oppose President Trump’s order, including lawsuits brought or joined by attorneys general in Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts. A copy of the brief is attached, and it is also available here.

“We believe this executive order is unconstitutional and unlawful, which is why we are joining in opposing its implementation,” Attorney General Racine said. “If implemented, this executive order would cause real and immediate harm to our residents and our city. As state attorneys general charged with promoting the public interest, we will continue to take any appropriate action to stand in the gap to defend our Constitution and its timeless principles of religious freedom, equal protection of law, and due process.”

“This filing is about keeping our communities safe, protecting our economy, and upholding the rule of law,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “Pennsylvania was founded on the promise of liberty, and we’re proud to help lead this effort in support of Washington state’s lawsuit.”

“No president or administration is more powerful than our laws and our Constitution,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Healey. “As state AGs, it is our job to hold this administration accountable and stand for the interests of our states and our residents. We are united in this effort.”

“State Attorneys General are on the front lines of protecting our people from dangerous and hastily-implemented federal policy. I’ve been clear: President Trump’s executive order is unconstitutional, unlawful, and fundamentally un-American – and we won’t stand by while it undermines our states’ families, economies, and institutions,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “From filing our own federal lawsuit last week, to partnering with fellow attorneys general on this amicus brief today, we will use every tool at our disposal to fight President Trump’s discriminatory order and help ensure the rule of law prevails.”

“Even as we pursue our own challenge here in the Commonwealth, we stand with those opposing President Trump’s unconstitutional, unlawful, and un-American immigration ban, whether in courtrooms, at our airports, or at peaceful demonstrations in communities all around the country,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. “The immigration ban has already hurt Virginia families, businesses, colleges and universities in ways that will take years to undo, but the first step is getting it struck down in court and that is exactly what we plan to do.”

“As a colony, Rhode Island was founded on religious tolerance. We were formed by the visionaries and dissidents who were escaping religious persecution. In our earliest years, we became a haven for people of all faiths and beliefs,” said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. “President Trump’s executive order is in direct conflict with the principles upon which our great state and this great nation were built. We cannot allow our Constitution and our constitutional rights to be trampled on, people to be discarded, or our freedoms to be restricted.”

“New Mexico has welcomed hundreds of students, scholars, doctors, and other lawful visa-holders from countries affected by this unlawful order,” said New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. “It is unfair, unconstitutional, and un-American that these community members and their families are being penalized based solely on their religion and national origin.”

“The Administration's reckless dismissal of the Constitution threatens to rip apart California families, risks their economic well-being and defies centuries of our American tradition,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Immigrants are the life-blood of our nation who work hard to build our country, especially in California. Our universities, medical institutions, businesses, and our tax base are all harmed by President Donald Trump’s unconstitutional and un-American order.”

Arguments in Brief
The amicus brief makes clear that the states have standing to challenge the immigration executive order because of the harm the order inflicts on the states themselves, including:

  • Harm to State Educational Institutions: The brief details the order’s disruption of faculty staffing, student attendance, and ongoing administration at state colleges and universities, as well as additional costs imposed by the order -- costs which many of these resource-constrained public institutions cannot afford. In particular, it notes the thousands of faculty and students from the seven affected countries who current work or study at Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, California, and Virginia state universities.
  • Harm to State Medical Institutions: The brief outlines the similar injuries President Trump’s order causes to state medical institutions and their ability to provide care, including disrupting the matching process at medical schools and impacting medical residents and other physicians, faculty, and researchers who have already been serving. These institutions serve some of the neediest populations in the affected states, and they are now at risk of decreased staffing as a result of the order.
  • Diminished Tax Revenues from Students, Tourists, and Business Visitors: The executive order abruptly halted the entry of students, tourists, and other visitors from the affected seven countries – and at the same time stopped the millions of dollars they contribute to the states’ economies. The brief also makes clear that there are longer-term harms to the states’ regional economies as a result of the order, as it hampers the movement of people and ideas into the states.
  • Irreparable Harm due to Establishment Clause Violations: As the states have made clear in other filings, the executive order represents an egregious violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prevents the government from favoring one religion over another. The brief argues that this “erosion of religious liberties cannot be deterred by awarding damages to the victims of such erosion.”
  • Harm to States’ Sovereign and Quasi-Sovereign Interests in Enforcing Their Own Statutes: The executive order also undermines the states’ ability to enforce their own anti-discrimination laws; ensure that the benefits of existing federal laws and regulations – such as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 – are not denied to individuals arriving in these states; and protect residents, businesses, and communities.

The amicus brief calls for a denial of the federal government’s emergency motion asking the Court to allow the order to go forward. Doing so, the brief argues, would return the country to the confusion and chaos created last weekend by the initial implementation of the order.