April 24, 2017

Iranian-Americans Continue Fight Against Second Muslim Ban

The judge in the Iranian-American lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban indicated Friday that she was not yet ready to issue a new nationwide freeze on the ban. Instead, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan in the Washington, D.C. Circuit requested additional briefs from the Iranian-American plaintiffs and from the government side, in order for her to make a decision some time after May 5th.

The judge emphasized several times that she wanted any order from her to be meaningful and not just an “academic exercise” duplicating prior injunctions from Hawaii and Maryland. Lawyers for the plaintiffs and Justice Department were questioned by the court about what the ongoing irreparable harms are to the individuals and organizations, whether those harms were caused by the second executive order, and what the court could order to address those harms without judicial overreach.

The legal team representing the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and the other co-plaintiffs—IABA, PAAIA, and Pars Equality Center—presented arguments in support of their request for a third nationwide injunction, supported in no small part by detailed declarations from the four Iranian-American organizations and individual plaintiffs, as well as the live testimony offered on Tuesday of last week. None of the other dozens of cases challenging the executive order have requested or been able to provide the court with live testimony, which has assisted the Iranian-American plaintiffs in developing the most robust factual record in the country.

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In a notable exchange, lawyers for the Justice Department argued that President Trump does not have a dispute with the Iranian people, but rather that his dispute is with the government of Iran. Judge Chutkan quickly interjected saying, “but the [executive] order affects the Iranian people.”

The hearing today was limited to the request for a preliminary injunction to freeze enforcement of the travel ban until the court makes a final determination on whether the ban is constitutional.  

Once all of the oral argument was completed, the judge instructed both sides to prepare legal briefs that address her specific questions during the hearing. Specifically, whether she can and/or should issue a third nationwide injunction, what the parties believe an injunction tailored to specific plaintiffs would look like, and what authority the court has, if any, to order the Trump administration to resume normal visa operations as if the executive orders were never signed. Plaintiffs’ legal brief is due on April 27, the Justice Department’s response is due on May 2, and Plaintiffs’ rebuttal to the government’s response will be due on May 5.

This case will be a long, drawn-out battle, but NIAC and its Iranian-American co-plaintiffs are prepared for a marathon, not a sprint. NIAC extends its deepest gratitude to Cyrus Mehri, Mehri & Skalet, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and pro bono counsel, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer for their continuing efforts in fighting for justice, fairness, equality, and the rule of law, as well as our partners Pars Equality Center, PAAIA and IABA.

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