Tag Archives: travel ban

ACLU of Wisconsin joins right-to-know campaign against Trump

Right-to-know demands continue to mount against the Trump administration, which has removed some information from the public view and refused to release other records.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin filed one of the most recent lawsuits, a claim demanding government documents about the implementation of the Trump administration’s Muslim bans.

As of WiG press time April 15, ACLU affiliates had filed 13 freedom of information lawsuits.

The ACLU of Wisconsin suit seeks records from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Chicago Field Office.  In particular, the lawsuit seeks records related to CBP’s implementation of Donald Trump’s travel bans at any airports within the purview of that office, which encompasses airports in Wisconsin.

The ACLU first sought the information through FOIA requests submitted to CBP in February. The government failed to substantively respond and the ACLU sued.

ACLU of Wisconsin executive director Chris Ott said, “Transparency in government is critical and our community has a right to know how the federal government implemented the Muslim ban.”

Mitra Ebadolahi, an ACLU staff attorney specializing in border litigation, added, “The public has a right to know how federal immigration officials have handled the implementation of the Muslim bans, especially after multiple federal courts have blocked various aspects of these executive orders.”

Each lawsuit seeks information regarding how CBP in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa and Tucson implemented the executive orders at specific airports and ports of entry in the midst of rapidly developing and conflicting government guidance.

Happening at the White House?

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute are suing under the Freedom of Information Act for records of visits to the White House and President Donald Trump’s residences in Florida and New York.

The visitor logs, which the Obama administration began posting online in 2009, are maintained by the Secret Service but the Trump has refused to turn them over.

“We hoped that the Trump administration would follow the precedent of the Obama administration and continue to release visitor logs, but unfortunately they have not,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of CREW. “Given the many issues we have already seen in this White House with conflicts of interest, outside influence and potential ethics violations, transparency is more important than ever, so we had no choice but to sue.”

Trump administration skips hearing on human rights, avoids questions on executive orders

The Trump administration on March 21 skipped a hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The human rights body, which is part of the Organization of American States, was scheduled to question U.S. officials on the effects of several of President Donald Trump’s executive orders, including orders on the Muslim ban, immigration enforcement and detention and the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to a statement from the ACLU.

A photo provided by the ACLU, which presented testimony at the hearing, shows the empty chairs where the U.S. government officials were to sit.

Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, appeared before the commission and made this statement at the hearing: “Today’s no-show is a new low. The Trump administration’s decision is an unprecedented show of disrespect to the international community that will alienate democratic allies. Refusing to engage with the commission is an isolationist policy that mirrors the behavior of authoritarian regimes and will only serve to embolden them. This is another worrying sign that the Trump administration is not only launching an assault on human rights at home but is also trying to undermine international bodies charged with holding abusive governments accountable.”

The commission, which was created in 1959, has played a historic role in fighting dictatorships in the Americas and countering other human rights abuses.

On the web

The ACLU’s written testimony is at https://www.aclu.org/IACHR-Muslim-Ban-Testimony.

SXSW: 4 bands headed to music fest denied entry into US

Organizers of the South by Southwest music festival say at least four international bands have been denied entry into the U.S. and that other performers have had their visa waivers revoked.

SXSW officials said this week that every year there are some issues with bands entering the U.S. for various reasons.

But the latest travel problems come amid tensions over President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration.

The band Massive Scar Era, whose members are from both Canada and Egypt, posted on Facebook it wasn’t going to “jump to conclusions” about why they were denied entry.

But they noted they have gotten to SXSW twice before with the same documents.

SXSW officials say they’re trying to ensure customs officials treat artist visa waivers as valid.

University disputes employee was fired for supporting Trump travel ban

A University of Wisconsin-La Crosse police dispatcher says she was fired for supporting President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

University human resources director Madeline Holzem sent a letter sent to Kimberly Dearman this week asking her to resign or be terminated, the La Crosse Tribune reported.

The letter says Dearman was investigated after a complaint from a colleague and was found to have violated university employee policies against unbecoming conduct and abusive or threatening language.

Dearman’s lawyer, Lee Fehr, said Dearman told a colleague the travel ban would prevent terrorists from entering the United States. She said those immigrants should go back where they came from.

“It is a very tragic situation that an employee in casual conversation would end up losing her job because another employee is somewhat offended,” Fehr said.

Fehr told the UW System Board of Regents that his client’s comments were spurred by an email from the university’s chancellor, Joe Gow. The email sent to faculty, students and staff rebuked the president’s move.

Gow said Dearman wasn’t fired for her political opinions.

“I want to be very clear,” Gow said. “We would never let someone go based on their political beliefs. We always follow due process and policy if anyone is let go.”

Fehr said his firm hasn’t taken any legal action, but that he asked the university to reinstate Dearman to her position.

Holzem said there was more to the story but declined to elaborate, citing possible legal action.

University staff sign solidarity statement, vow not to help ICE agents

Roughly 700 Michigan State University employees have signed a statement vowing not to help federal immigration officials seeking to apprehend or deport students.

The Lansing State Journal reports the faculty and staff members signed the “statement of solidarity” with students who are refugees, immigrants or children of immigrants.

The statement says they support university President Lou Anna Simon, who said the East Lansing school “must not allow fear to change the nature of who we are.”

A release says the statement isn’t intended to be a call for disobeying laws, but a refusal to collaborate with federal investigators.


Judge bars Trump from enforcing travel ban against Wisconsin family

A federal judge has blocked President Donald Trump’s administration from enforcing his new travel ban against a Syrian family looking to escape fighting in their native land by fleeing to Wisconsin.

A Syrian Muslim who fled to Wisconsin has been working since last year to win asylum for his wife and 3-year-old daughter so they can leave Aleppo and join him here. He filed a federal lawsuit in Madison in February alleging Trump’s first travel ban had stopped the visa process for them. U.S. District Judge Michael Conley ruled that challenge moot after a federal judge in Washington state blocked the travel order.

The process restarted for the family and they’re now preparing to travel to Jordan for visa interviews at the U.S. embassy, the last step before U.S. customs officials decide whether to issue them visas. But the family doesn’t have dates for the interviews yet and Trump’s new travel ban goes into effect March 16, stirring fears that the process could halt again before visas are issued, according to the Syrian man’s attorneys.

The man filed a new complaint late last week alleging the new ban is just as problematic as the first, calling it anti-Muslim and alleging it violates his right to due process, equal protection and freedom of religion. He asked Conley to declare the ban unconstitutional on its face and block enforcement against his family.

It’s unclear whether the new ban applies to asylum seekers like the Syrian family. Government attorneys argued during a teleconference with Conley on Friday that it doesn’t; the man’s attorneys maintain it does. Conley acknowledged it’s murky but still issued a temporary restraining order barring enforcement against the family, saying the man seems to have a good chance of winning the case. The judge set a hearing for March 21.

The restraining order doesn’t block the entire travel ban; it simply prevents Trump’s administration from enforcing it against this specific family.

The U.S. Justice Department is defending the ban. Spokeswoman Nicole Navas said agency attorneys were reviewing the Syrian man’s complaint and declined further comment on it and Conley’s order.

Trump issued an executive order in January banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Syria, from entering the United States. The order sparked numerous lawsuits, including the Syrian refugee’s initial federal complaint in Wisconsin. U.S. District Judge James Robart in Washington state blocked the ban on Feb. 3.

Trump issued a new order that removed Iraq from the list of countries and temporarily shuts down the refugee program. Unlike the first order, the new ban won’t affect current visa holders and removes language that would give priority to religious minorities. Hawaii filed a lawsuit challenging the new ban Wednesday; other states with Democratic attorneys general plan to sue next week.

According to the Syrian man’s lawsuit, he fled his country to avoid near-certain death at the hands of two military factions, one a Sunni-aligned group fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and one fighting in support of Assad. The pro-Assad forces thought he was sympathetic to the other side and the anti-Assad army targeted him because he was a Sunni and traveled to pro-Assad areas to manage his family’s business.

Both sides tortured him and threatened to kill him, the lawsuit said. The pro-Assad forces also threatened to rape his wife. He came to the United States in 2014 and was granted asylum last year. He then began filing petitions seeking asylum for his wife and daughter.

He has filed all his court actions anonymously to protect his family.

Trump signs revised executive order for travel ban, reaction to ban 2.0

President Donald Trump signed a revised executive order for a U.S. travel ban on Monday, leaving Iraq off the list of targeted countries.

More than two dozen lawsuits were filed in U.S. courts against the original travel ban and the state of Washington succeeded in having it suspended by the 9th Circuit court of Appeals by arguing that it violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination.

The new order, which the White House said Trump had signed, will keep a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of six Muslim-majority nations — Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the officials said.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said earlier on Monday that the new order would take effect on March 16. The new directive delays implementation.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on Monday, “As threats to our security continue to evolve and change, common sense dictates that we continually re-evaluate and reassess the systems we rely upon to protect our country.”

A White House senior official said Iraq was taken off the list in the original order, which was issued on Jan. 27, because the Iraqi government has imposed new vetting procedures, such as heightened visa screening and data sharing, and because of its work with the United States in countering Islamic State militants.

The White House official said the new executive order also ensures that tens of thousands of legal permanent residents in the United States — or green card holders — from the listed countries would not be affected by the travel ban.

Trump’s original order barred travelers from the seven nations from entering for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days. Refugees from Syria were to be banned indefinitely but under the new order they are not given separate treatment.

“This executive order has scrapped that division and the indefinite suspension and has collapsed them into a single category of a 120-day suspension,” the White House official said.

Still, the new order is drawing widespread criticism among progressives who challenged the first executive order and many other actions by the president.

“Version 2.0 of the Trump anti-Muslim executive order is still based entirely on religious hatred and thinly-veiled racism,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. ” He is still targeting specific countries; he is telegraphing his despicable anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee and anti-people of color views. This version is still completely against core American values such as freedom of, and from, religion; it still diminishes our stature as a global partner for humanitarianism by denying vulnerable refugee families some basic respite — solely on the basis of their faith.”

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said, “Courts across the country have made clear: President Trump is not above the Constitution. While the White House may have made changes to the ban, the intent to discriminate against Muslims remains clear. This doesn’t just harm the families caught in the chaos of President Trump’s draconian policies — it’s diametrically opposed to our values, and makes us less safe.”

“The changes the Trump administration has made, and everything we’ve learned since the original ban rolled out, completely undermine the bogus national security justifications the president has tried to hide behind and only strengthen the case against his unconstitutional executive orders,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Supreme Court weighs case of Mexican boy slain by border agent

Sixty feet and the U.S-Mexico border separated the unarmed, 15-year-old Mexican boy and the U.S. Border Patrol agent who killed him with a gunshot to the head early on a June evening in 2010.

U.S. officials chose not to prosecute Agent Jesus Mesa Jr. and the Obama administration refused a request to extradite him so that he could face criminal charges in Mexico. When the parents of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca tried to sue Mesa in an American court for violating their son’s rights, federal judges dismissed their claims.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday was hearing the parents’ appeal, which their lawyers say is their last hope for some measure of justice.

The legal issues are different, but the Supreme Court case resembles the court battle over President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven majority Muslim nations in at least one sense. Courts examining both issues are weighing whether foreigners can have their day in U.S. courts.

Privacy experts also are watching the case because it could affect how courts treat global internet surveillance, particularly when foreigners are involved. It’s there that the “Fourth Amendment question in Hernandez seems to matter most,” George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr wrote on the Volokh Conspiracy blog.

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Precisely what happened in the cement culvert that separates El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is in dispute, although the competing accounts are legally irrelevant to the court’s decision.

Sergio’s family says he was messing around with his friends that day, playing a game in which they ran down the culvert from the Mexican side and up the American side to touch an 18-foot fence. Mesa arrived on a bicycle and detained one person while the others scampered back across the culvert, actually the dry bed of the Rio Grande River. He then shot Sergio as the boy ran toward a pillar supporting an overhead rail bridge. Mesa and other agents who arrived on the scene rode away on their bikes, without checking on the boy or offering medical aid, the family says.

The Justice Department said Mesa was trying to stop “smugglers attempting an illegal border crossing” and fired his gun after he came under a barrage of rocks. Mesa argues in his court filings that Sergio was among the rock throwers.

But Robert Hilliard, the family’s lawyer, said U.S. officials met privately with the parents to explain the decision not to prosecute Mesa and told them that their son had not thrown rocks. A cellphone video appears to show that Sergio was running and trying to hide before he was shot.

Had Sergio been shot a few feet to the north, he would have been on American soil and U.S. courts would be open to his family, Hilliard said. There’s no dispute that Mesa was on the U.S. side of the border, he said.

If the family is kept out of court, Hilliard said, the Supreme Court will be saying “that 100 percent of the conduct of a domestic police officer in the United States is unconstrained by the U.S. Constitution.” The family is seeking at least $10 million, Hilliard has said.

The Trump administration, like its predecessor, is arguing that the location of Hernandez’s death, in Mexico, should be the end of the story.

The right to sue “should not be extended to aliens injured abroad,” the government said in its court filing. In addition, the government said the parents’ claims under the Fourth Amendment should be dismissed because its protections against unreasonable search and seizure don’t apply to non-citizens outside the U.S. The government also said Mesa should be shielded from liability for the shooting, even if the family could prove he violated other rights Sergio might be able to assert.

Judge Edward Prado of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals initially voted to allow the case to proceed because “if ever a case could be said to present an official abuse of power so arbitrary as to shock the conscience,” Sergio’s shooting appeared to be it. The full 5th Circuit later sided with Mesa.

Sergio’s shooting was not an isolated border episode. Parents of a teenager killed in Nogales, Mexico, from gunshots fired across the border by a U.S. agent have filed a civil rights lawsuit that is being delayed until the Supreme Court rules.

The government’s response to that shooting was notable because prosecutors are pursuing second-degree murder charges against Agent Lonnie Swartz.

In that episode, 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez was hit about 10 times by shots fired across the border from Arizona. The Border Patrol has said Swartz was defending himself against rock-throwers.

The boy’s family says he was not involved and was walking home after playing basketball with friends. Swartz is on leave and his trial is set for June.

A 2013 report commissioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and written by an outside group faulted the agency for insufficiently investigating the 67 shootings that took place from 2010 to 2012 and questioned the use of force in some of those cases. The agency has said it has tightened its policies, particularly in response to rock-throwers.

Travel ban personal for young lawyer who led fight

Washington state Solicitor General Noah Purcell has argued before packed courtrooms, but those crowds paled in comparison to the millions who heard him argue against President Donald Trump’s travel ban before a federal appeals court.

Luckily, news of the massive audience didn’t reach him beforehand.

“I didn’t really know that it was going to be broadcast live on the networks,” Purcell said, referring to the court’s decision to livestream the audio of the Feb. 7 arguments, which were made available on YouTube and newspaper websites worldwide and carried at least in part by CNN and MSNBC.

“I normally try to follow the news, but I’ve been so buried in this work,” he said.

The work that consumed the earnest 37-year-old Seattle native started just after Trump signed an executive order that temporarily suspended the country’s refugee program and immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. Purcell huddled with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and other lawyers to draft what would become the first major challenge to one of Trump’s directives.

Purcell said Trump’s order was motivated by religious discrimination, making it unconstitutional.

His message persuaded a federal judge to temporarily block the travel ban and moved three judges with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to keep that restraining order in place.

A Justice Department attorney had argued states lacked standing to sue and the courts had little to no role in reviewing the president’s determinations concerning national security. On Thursday, the administration asked the 9th Circuit to hold off on any more decisions related to the lawsuit filed by Washington and Minnesota until it issues a replacement ban.

The size of Purcell’s audiences may be new, but his desire to work on causes that he believes will help the less-advantaged has been his focus for decades.

Attending an inner-city Seattle public school helped shape that outlook, he said.

“I went to school with people from all over the world. Some families were in and out of being homeless,” he said. “I saw from an early age that I was lucky to have two loving parents who were pushing me to get a good education, while there were smart people at Franklin (High School) who did not have the same circumstances.”

“So much depends on where you were born.”

While at Franklin, Purcell began dating Jasmin Weaver, who later became his wife and partner in fights for worthy causes.

Purcell and Weaver teamed up while at the University of Washington and founded Affordable Tuition Now! Their organization helped classmates secure education funds and earned them the prestigious Mary Gates Leadership Award. Weaver now works for the city of Seattle as deputy director of intergovernmental relations.

Weaver’s family history made Trump’s travel ban personal for Purcell.

She’s the daughter of Iranian immigrants who fled their country in the 1970s, Purcell said. The ban didn’t impact Weaver’s mother, a U.S. citizen, but it did affect Weaver’s distant relatives. Some of her cousins couldn’t visit Houston because of the ban, he said.

“It was one of many examples of how irrational the policy is, when it’s keeping grandparents from visiting their grandkids who are U.S. citizens and are the kindest people you’d ever want to meet,” he said.

Purcell dabbled in politics in 2002 when he became campaign manager for another low-income community advocate: Democratic state Rep. Eric Pettigrew. Once Pettigrew secured his seat in the Legislature, Purcell joined his staff.

In 2007, Purcell graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served as editor of the Harvard Law Review. His first job out of school was as law clerk for a judge on the federal appeals court for the D.C. Circuit. His talents soon landed Purcell in the most coveted job any law student could have: clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court. Purcell worked for former Justice David Souter from 2008 to 2009.

His next position was with the Homeland Security Department’s General Counsel’s Office, where he advised the administration on security and immigration issues, including the government’s challenge of Arizona’s immigration law that required police to detain people suspected of being in the country illegally.

Purcell was back in Seattle, working for a law firm, when Ferguson became attorney general in 2012.

The young lawyer’s stint on the Supreme Court, coupled with his reputation as smart but humble, were among the factors that put Purcell high on Ferguson’s list when he began his search for his solicitor general. The job entails coordinating the state’s involvement in appellate cases, filing legal briefs and issuing legal opinions.

After holding several interviews, Purcell was the clear choice, Ferguson said.

“Noah had never argued a case at the Supreme Court, and he was the youngest solicitor general in the country when I hired him _ I was aware of that _ but I was confident that Noah would end up being exactly who he turned out to be: the best solicitor general in the country.”


Bowling Green laughs along at massacre that never happened

A White House adviser’s commentary about a massacre in Kentucky that never happened sparked seemingly endless snickering online, with jabs like “never remember” and “I survived the Bowling Green massacre.”

Kellyanne Conway mentioned the fictional massacre in an MSNBC interview as the reason for a temporary travel ban for Iraqis in 2011, saying it also proved why the Trump administration’s ban — now on hold — was necessary.

It thrust this college town back into the national spotlight, nearly three years after a sinkhole that swallowed several classic Corvettes at a museum in Bowling Green garnered worldwide attention.

Even Big Red, the beloved, furry Western Kentucky University mascot, wasn’t immune: One social media post shows him sprawled on the ground with the inscription “Never forget.”

“The jokes are flying for sure,” said Guy Jordan, who teaches at Western Kentucky. “My sense of things is that we are today a city of people walking around looking at their phones and giggling softly to ourselves.”

Jordan quipped the only massacres in Bowling Green have been some of Western’s football victories.

For Bowling Green radio personality Jelisa Chatman, Conway’s remarks were like a gift from heaven as an on-the-air subject.

“You wake up in the morning and you think, ‘What am I going to talk about today?”” she said. “And God is like, ‘Here you go. You need something to talk about, how about this?”

At Home Cafe & Marketplace, the most popular pizza was “the Bowling Green Massacre” pie. The specialty pizza with blackened chicken, mac’ and cheese and jalapenos was on pace to set a one-day sales record at the Bowling Green restaurant, said owner Josh Poling.

“The minute I heard it last night, I was like, ‘Oh gosh, that’s too good of an opportunity to pass up,”” he said.

All proceeds from the specialty pizza’s sales will go to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he said.

Meanwhile, someone registered the domain name bowlinggreenmassacre.com, and people clicking on the site were automatically directed to the website of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Last week, a group of people gathered at a Bowling Green park where they lit candles in remembrance of massacre victims.

Conway initially cited the Bowling Green “massacre” as a reason why the Trump administration’s temporary ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority nations is necessary.

Bowling Green has long had a reputation as a welcoming place for refugees and the city is home to the International Center of Kentucky, a refugee resettlement agency.

In the past 10 years, more than 2,000 refugees resettled in Bowling Green from more than a dozen countries, including some Muslim-majority countries, said the agency’s executive director, Albert Mbanfu.