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Trump’s Tweet On “Extreme Vetting” May Have Opened the Door to a Court Challenge

The Trump administration has begun to apply extreme vetting on visa applicants, even though tourism has dropped this year. A new form, DS-5535, asks visa applicants extremely detailed questions about travels, work history and their presence on social media, as follows:

  • Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel;
  • Address history during the last fifteen years;
  • Employment history during the last fifteen years;
  • All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
  • Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
  • Name and dates of birth for all children;
  • Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;
  • Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years; and
  • Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years.

It is going to be extremely difficult for anyone who doesn’t keep meticulous records to accurately complete Form DS-5535. The form also warns that failing to provide the information may delay or prevent the application’s processing. It is not clear who will be subject to these additional questions. The US Department of State in its May 4, 2017 notice in the Federal Register has indicated that consular officers will ask visa applicants to complete the new form to “resolve an applicant’s identity or to vet for terrorism or other national security related visa ineligibilities when the consular officer determines that the circumstances of a visa applicant, a review of a visa application, or responses in a visa interview indicate a need for greater scrutiny.” The notice goes on to further state, “Failure to provide requested information will not necessarily result in visa denial, if the consular officer determines the applicant has provided a credible explanation why he or she cannot answer a question or provide requested supporting documentation, such that the consular officer is able to conclude that the applicant has provided adequate information to determine the applicant’s eligibility to receive the visa. The collection of social media platforms and identifiers will not be used to deny visas based on applicants’ race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation.” Notwithstanding this assurance, it is quite likely that those who inadvertently fail to include all the information may be penalized later when applying for subsequent immigration benefits. A simple error could also create a false suspicion of fraud. The government has estimated that at least 65,000 people will be subject to the extreme vetting procedure.

As more and more visa applicants subjected to DS-5535 are likely to either face actual or constructive denials (such as where an application remains pending for an indefinite period of time), what recourse would one have? A consular officer has unbridled discretion over visa decisions. A visa applicant has no right to appeal. Courts are reluctant to review a consular officer’s decision. There may however be a sliver of an opening thanks to President Trump’s obsessive use of Twitter. Trump’s recent tweets might have provided a legal basis for challenging a visa denial under the new extreme vetting procedure, especially if a visa applicant has been denied  from one of the countries contemplated under the executive order that bans travel of nationals of six Muslim majority countries.

On June 5, 2017, following the latest terror attack in London, Trump issued a series of tweets that may have undercut his travel ban case. The first executive order banning nationals of seven Muslim majority countries was blocked because it was found to have animus against Muslims based on Trump’s campaign statements, and thus violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. The Trump administration subsequently issued the current executive order to overcome the infirmities in the first one, but even that was blocked. The Fourth Circuit’s decision in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump upholding the preliminary injunction against the second travel ban stated that even this ban “in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”

The administration has asked the Supreme Court to remove the block on the ban. The key issue on appeal is whether the second version is merely a watered-down version of the first ban. If that is so, then the second version is no different from the first version, which was found infirm as it displayed an animus towards one religion, namely. Trump did not help his case when he actually admitted that the second travel ban is a watered-down version of the first ban:

The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.”

David Isaacson has astutely commented  that  the usage of the term “politically correct” at “Trump’s end of the political spectrum” implies that “it is unnecessarily or inappropriately tailored to avoid speaking of a minority group in a way that liberals would consider offensive.” In other words, this is a dog whistle to Trump’s base that the watered-down more “politically correct” version demonstrates the same animus against Muslims like the first one. There is also growing commentary that agrees that Trump’s tweets may have undercut his case in favor of the travel ban. Here are other damaging tweets that were part of Trump’s tweet storm on the travel ban on June 5:

The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court – & seek much tougher version!

and

People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!

Later in the evening on June 5, Trump tweeted this:

That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!

It is thus no surprise that Neal Katyal, the lawyer who argued for the plaintiffs in Hawaii v. Trump in the 9th Circuit, tweeted, “Its kinda odd to have the defendant in Hawaii v. Trump acting as our co-counsel. We don’t need the help but will take it!” Even George Conway, the husband of Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway, who took himself out of the running to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Division tweeted: “These tweets may make some ppl feel better, but they certainly won’t help OSG get 5 votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad,” he wrote, using abbreviations or Office of Solicitor General and the Supreme Court.”

There is one tweet of Trump as part of the June 5 tweet storm that did not get noticed as much as the others, which potentially opens the door for one who may wish to seek judicial review over a visa denial under the new extreme vetting procedures:

In any event we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!

This tweet can be interpreted to mean that “EXTREME VETTING”, capitalized by Trump, is in effect a substitute for the travel ban, which the courts have blocked. If DS-5535 is used to wholesale deny visa applicants from Muslim countries in the executive order entry into the United States, then Trump’s animus against Muslims will also be evident in Form DS-5535. On its face, the government has every right to apply extreme vetting procedures on travelers to the United States and it would be difficult to overturn a consular denial as a result. However, as a result of Trump’s tweet implying that he has deployed extreme vetting as a substitute for the blocked travel ban, it may have created an opening for challenging the procedure.

Courts have continuously applied the “facially legitimate and bona fide” test of Kliendienst v. Mandel to challenges to individual visa denials. Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion in Kerry v. Din affirms this standard. Although Mandel sets a high bar to plaintiffs, the Fourth Circuit’s majority opinion in IRAP v. Trump emphasized that the government’s action must both be facially legitimate as well as be bona fide. The government’s action, such as with the executive order banning nationals from six Muslim majority countries in the name of national security may have been facially legitimate, but may not have been bona fide as the President used it as a cover to fulfill his promise to ban Muslims from the United States. This constituted bad faith, according to the majority opinion, and thus the executive order was not bona fide. Where the good faith has “seriously been called into question,” the court concluded it should be allowed to “look behind the stated reason for the challenged action.” The court used the test in Lemon v. Kurtzman to establish that the travel ban violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution by disfavoring Muslims. Relying on statements that President Trump made both during his campaign and after he became President, the travel ban was in effect a legal attempt to effectuate Trump’s promised Muslim ban rather than advance national security. The Fourth Circuit opinion broke new ground by challenging the long-held notion that the courts must always defer to the government on national security concerns, especially when the government acts in bad faith.

Trump’s recent tweets seem to suggest that the new travel ban, as a watered down and “politically correct” version of the original travel ban, was intended to fulfill his campaign promise of banning Muslims from the United States. Thus, one can infer that even the second ban was issued in bad faith, which the Supreme Court will soon review. The same could be said about Trump’s tweet on extreme vetting, as it appears to be a substitute for the travel ban, which was found to have been done in bad faith. If there is pattern of nationals from the blocked countries in the travel ban being denied visas under the extreme vetting procedures pursuant to DS-5535, applicants could potentially challenge such denials as being done in bad faith. As suggested in my prior blog, IRAP v. Trump provides a basis to challenge visa refusals if they are done in bad faith even beyond the travel ban. One can see this happening if applicants from the countries cited in the travel bans are routinely refused admission as a pretext for blocking Muslims. Admittedly, a challenge of this sort would be difficult, and the plaintiff would also need to assert standing. Standing would be easier to assert, though, when there is a constitutional claim, especially if extreme vetting like the travel ban violates the Establishment Clause, and when cases are brought by US citizens or when the interests of US citizens may be jeopardized as a result of the visa refusal.

At the time of going to press, the Ninth Circuit also issued a decision in Hawaii v. Trump that upholds the block of the lower district court, but on statutory grounds. The Ninth Circuit did not even need to get into the constitutional argument on whether the executive order displayed animus towards Muslims and thus violated the Establishment Clause, and instead ruled that the executive order violates INA 212(f). By suspending the entry of 180 million nationals of the six blocked countries, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the President did not show a sufficient justification that their suspension would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States” under INA 212(f). Although the Ninth Circuit in making a statutory argument did not feel the need to analyze Trump’s tweets, footnote 14 in on page 40 of the slip opinion mentioned one of the tweets:

Indeed, the President recently confirmed his assessment that it is the “countries” that are inherently dangerous, rather than the 180 million individual nationals of those countries who are barred from entry under the President’s “travel ban.” See Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter (June 5, 2017, 6:20 PM), https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/871899511525961728 (“That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!”) (emphasis in original); see also Elizabeth Landers, White House: Trump’s tweets are “official statements”, CNN (June 6, 2017, 4:37 PM), http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/06/politics/trump-tweets-official-statements/ (reporting the White House Press Secretary’s confirmation that the President’s tweets are “considered official statements by the President of the United States”).

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will be the final arbiter and may either affirm the reasoning of the Fourth Circuit or the Ninth Circuit, or reverse. If the Supreme Court lifts the block, then that would end the matter and this blog may become moot. If the Supreme Court affirms the block, then Trump’s tweet on extreme vetting might still be relevant if a plaintiff decides to challenge a visa denial and especially if the Supreme Court upheld the Fourth Circuit’s constitutional argument rather than the Ninth Circuit’s statutory argument. One can see the Trump administration deploying extreme vetting with full force as a substitute to the blocked travel ban. If extreme vetting harms the image and economy of the United States by dissuading bona fide travelers form Muslim-majority countries, and does nothing to enhance national security interests, it is incumbent on those who view the United States as a great nation because of its welcoming attitude towards visitors and immigrants to find creative ways to challenge DS-5535.

Going Beyond IRAP v. TRUMP: Challenging “Bad Faith” Governmental Actions Denying Non-Citizens Admission Into The United States

The Fourth Circuit’s decision in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump upholding the preliminary injunction against  President Trump’s travel ban, on the ground that it violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, holds out hope for other similar challenges that have otherwise faced a high bar to overcome the Executive branch’s unbridled discretion to keep out non-citizens of the United States.

In a lengthy majority opinion, Chief Judge Roger Gregory asked whether the Constitution “protects Plaintiffs’ right to challenge an Executive Order that in the text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”

Courts have continuously applied the “facially legitimate and bona fide” test of Kliendienst v. Mandel to challenges to individual visa denials. Although Mandel sets a high bar to plaintiffs, the Fourth Circuit’s majority opinion emphasized that the government’s action must both be facially legitimate as well as be bona fide. The government’s action, such as with the executive order banning nationals from six Muslim majority countries in the name of national security may have been facially legitimate, but may not have been bona fide as the President used it as a cover to fulfill his promise to ban Muslims from the United States. This constituted bad faith, according to the majority opinion, and thus the EO was not bona fide. Where the good faith has “seriously been called into question,” the court concluded it should be allowed to “look behind the stated reason for the challenged action.” The court used the test in Lemon v. Kurtzman to establish that the travel ban violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution by disfavoring Muslims. Relying on statements that President Trump made both during his campaign and after he became President, the travel ban was in effect a legal attempt to effectuate Trump’s promised Muslim ban rather than advance national security.

The Fourth Circuit opinion broke new ground by challenging the long-held notion that the courts must always give deference to the government’s national security justification. The following extract from the majority opinion is worth noting:

The Government argues that we should simply defer to the executive and presume that the President’s actions are lawful so long as he utters the magic words “national security.” But our system of checks and balances established by the Framers makes clear that such unquestioning deference is not the way our democracy is to operate. Although the executive branch may have authority over national security affairs, see Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689 (2008) (citing Dep’t of Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518, 530 (1988)), it may only exercise that authority within the confines of the law, see Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 645–46, 654–55 (1952) (Jackson, J., concurring); and, of equal importance, it has always been the duty of the judiciary to declare “what the law is,” Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 177 (1803).

To what extent can IRAP v. Trump be extended to other situations where a visa may be denied in bad faith and thus not meet the “facially legitimate and bona fide” test of Mandel? In Kerry v. Din, the Supreme Court upheld the visa refusal of the beneficiary of an I-130 petition filed by his US citizen spouse under the terrorism ground of inadmissibility pursuant to INA 212(a)(3)(b). According to the concurrence by Justice Kennedy, the beneficiary, an Afghan national, who once worked for the Taliban government in Afghanistan, received sufficient notice by being provided the section number of the INA under which he was found inadmissible, and thus the government met the “facially legitimate and bona fide test” of Mandel. However, Justice Kennedy did indeed emphasize, “Absent an affirmative showing of bad faith on the part of the consular officer who denied Berashk a visa—which Din has not plausibly alleged with sufficient particularity—Mandel instructs us not to “look behind” the Government’s exclusion of Berashk for additional factual details beyond what its express reliance on §1182(a)(3)(B) encompassed.”

In IRAP v. Trump, the plaintiffs successfully showed bad faith by President Trump who violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution. What other sorts of bad faith may a plaintiff show to convince a court to look behind the “facially legitimate and bona fide” test? Perhaps, if the facts in Kerry v. Din showed that the beneficiary was unlawfully detained for hours in the US Consulate during his visa interview and forced to admit that he was involved in terrorist activities on condition of being released, even though he was not, that could arguably be tantamount to bad faith? In this hypothetical situation, the constitutional violation which gives rise to bad faith would be the violation of the beneficiary’s due process rights rather than the violation of the Establishment Clause. The beneficiary, in this situation, could potentially cite to landmark cases such as Zadvdas v. Davis (finding that the power of the Executive is “subject to important constitutional limitations,” holding that LPRs are entitled to due process rights, and that their indefinite detention is a violation of those rights), Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (noting that the President’s Article II powers are subject to review, holding that citizens held as enemy combatants must be afforded due process rights, namely the meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for their detention), Boumediene v. Bush, (specifically noting that the political branches cannot “switch the Constitution on or off at will” and providing the right of habeas review to a non-citizen outside the US) and INS v. Chadha (noting that Courts are empowered to review whether or not “Congress has chosen a constitutionally permissible means of implementing” the “regulation of aliens.”).

Finally, the plaintiff would also need to demonstrate standing in order to bring the claim. To establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must demonstrate “that it has suffered a concrete and particularized injury that is either actual or imminent, that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant, and that it is likely that a favorable decision will redress that injury.” Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). In IRAP v. Trump, the government in an effort to object to standing to the plaintiffs asserted that in  Saavedra Bruno v. Albright, a consular official’s decision to issue or withhold a visa is not subject to judicial review, at least unless Congress says otherwise. However, the court noted that Saavedra also stands for the proposition that when cases are brought by U.S. citizens, or when statutory claims are combined with constitutional ones, judicial review is permitted.

In a fact pattern similar to Kerry v. Din, the I-130 petitioner, a US citizen, would have standing to bring the action. What about an H-1B visa holder, with three months remaining on that visa, applies for a renewal of that visa at the US consulate? The consular officer, animated by the new rhetoric flowing from the administration that H-1B workers steal jobs of US workers, badgers the H-1B applicant, under threat of many years of imprisonment, to falsely admit she is not performing the duties indicated in the perfectly bona fide H-1B petition and revokes the existing visa as well as refuses to issue a new H-1B visa. Would the H-1B worker have standing to allege bad faith on the part of the consular officer? The H-1B plaintiff can potentially assert that she is residing in the US, and also enjoys “dual intent” under the H-1B visa. [Under INA 214(b), an H-1B beneficiary is allowed to harbor an intent to remain in the US permanently even though the H-1B visa is temporary].  If the H-1B holder has also been sponsored for a green card through the employer, this would further bolster her standing, as she had not just harbored an intent to reside permanently but has taken concrete steps to do so. Finally, the US employer can also file an action as the petitioner of the H-1B who will be affected if she is unable to resume employment in the US. Still, being overaggressive, coercive, and sloppy, even to an extent that would violate due process rights assuming the targets of one’s over-aggressiveness had standing to assert such rights, may not necessarily imply bad faith, such as having a hidden agenda like Trump’s travel ban. Nevertheless, the evolving jurisprudence in IRAP v. Trump does give other plaintiffs food for thought to blow a hole through the “facially legitimate and bona fide” wall set forth in Mandel.

The government may have maximum power to deny non-citizens admission into the US, but that power is not absolute. IRAP v. Trump, and  many other successful challenges to Trump’s travel ban, may provide a pathway for a plaintiff to seek judicial review of governmental actions that have been conducted in bad faith.

Protesting Trump’s Muslim Ban Through Art: An Immigration Lawyer’s Perspective

There are many ways to protest Trump’s travel ban, also known as the Muslim ban. Lawyers have successfully sued against the ban in the courts. People protested at airports in an unprecedented and spontaneous manner. Art can also be a powerful form of protest against the ban.  The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) has also joined the protests by displayng works of artists from the banned countries among other iconic works of art in its permanent collection. One has to go through the galleries housing the permanent collection to serendipitously come across the work of an artist from a banned country, which in the age of Trump, have also attained iconic status. Art is able to inspire the lawyer in protesting the ban. Trump’s exclusion of an entire people from a banned country casts all of them as terrorists, including the artist. This is both legally wrong and morally shameful.

These are three of my favorites among the works of the artists from the banned countries at the MOMA. I have also included at the end the works of two artists from my own very modest art collection. I am happy to possess these works, which have always been beautiful, but resonate more powerfully today. They inspire me as I protest Trump’s ban.

Charles Hossein Zenderoudi – born in Iran

Ibrahim el- Salahi - born in Sudan

Ibrahim el- Salahi – born in Sudan

Parviz Tanavoli – born in Iran

 

These are two works from my own collection, the first which I acquired in 1993 and the second in 2010.

 

Reza Derakshani – born in Iran

Mary Yahya – born in Iraq

No Matter How Many New Travel Bans Trump Issues, Maximum Power Does Not Mean Absolute Power

By Cyrus D. Mehta and Sophia Genovese-Halvorson

We have numerous justifiable concerns with the immigration policies of the Trump Administration on behalf of our clients and all Americans who feel that our values are being undermined, especially the Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Fortunately, courts across the country seem to agree except for one. Most notable were United States District Judge Robart’s nation-wide temporary restraining order (TRO) of the EO in the Western District of Washington and United States District Judge Brinkema’s Virginia-wide injunction against the EO in the Eastern District of Virginia. Due to these and many other orders, as well as heavy backlash, the Trump Administration has now stepped back and have stated that they will replace the January 27 EO with a new Executive Order sometime next week that will survive judicial scrutiny. It is our view, however, that even this new EO in whatever way repackaged will be unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

As a reminder, the January 27 EO suspended for 90 days the entry of persons from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, and banned Syrian refugees indefinitely, unless they received an exemption from DHS for being a “religious-minority.” The EO immediately disrupted the lives of thousands of people, from non-immigrants, immigrants, LPRs, and even dual-citizen holders. The first suit against the EO came only a day after its enactment in the Eastern District of New York, which issued an emergency stay that temporarily blocked the government from sending people out of the country after they have landed at a U.S. airport with valid visas, including green card holders. There were several other injunctions that followed. Then the States of Washington and Minnesota filed suit in the Western District of Washington, requesting, among other things, a restraining order on the ban. Judge Robart issued a nationwide temporary restraining order against the ban, which was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. Judge Robart’s ruling on the merits is still pending. Meanwhile, Judge Brinkema in the Eastern District of Virginia granted a Virginia-wide injunction against the EO, citing specifically to the Establishment Clause.

President Trump continues to argue that the President has extensive powers granted to him under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) § 212(f), 8 U.S.C. § 1182(f), and proffers that the judiciary cannot exercise jurisdiction over an EO due to the plenary powers doctrine. In relevant part, INA § 212(f) states that,

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

However, as Judge Brinkema rightfully pointed out in her decision, “maximum power does not mean absolute power.” Aziz v. Trump, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20889, at *11 (E.D. Va. Feb. 13, 2017). In her analysis, Judge Brinkema reaffirms that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and that no one, not even the President, can violate its terms. Citing to landmark cases such as Zadvdas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001) (finding that the power of the Executive is “subject to important constitutional limitations,” holding that LPRs are entitled to due process rights, and that their indefinite detention is a violation of those rights), Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004) (noting that the President’s Article II powers are subject to review, holding that citizens held as enemy combatants must be afforded due process rights, namely the meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for their detention), among others, she proves this point.

The Ninth Circuit that affirmed Judge Robart’s TRO also provided precedent on the reviewability of the Executive, citing to Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723, 765 (2008) (specifically noting that the political branches cannot “switch the Constitution on or off at will” and providing the right of habeas review to a non-citizen outside the US) and INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983) (noting that Courts are empowered to review whether or not “Congress has chosen a constitutionally permissible means of implementing” the “regulation of aliens.”). The Ninth Circuit goes so far to say that even under Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972), the Court can review the actions of the Executive branch, noting that but for their ability to review, there would be no “facially legitimate and bona fide reason” test to measure executive exercises of immigration authority.

In short, there is no doubt that Trump’s Executive Orders are subject to review when there is an alleged violation of the Constitution. But what specifically is unconstitutional about Trump’s ban? Or a rewrite of the ban even if it does not apply to lawful permanent residents or non-immigrants who have already been in the United States? One indication of the new EO by DHS Secretary Kelly is that it would give time for people to come back in , and would presumably include the same 7 nations whose nationals would be barred from future entries.

The Establishment Clause

The Establishment Clause argument has great merit, and it is the opinion of these authors that this argument will likely prevent Trump from prevailing on even his latest Executive Order, where it is likely he will include even non-Muslim countries, so as to appear non-discriminatory. The Virginia Court, in relevant part, explains that,

“The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.” The Supreme Court has articulated various tests for determining whether that command has been violated. The first such test is that the law “must have a secular…purpose.” “In the past, [this] test has not been fatal very often, presumably because government does not generally act unconstitutionally, with the predominant purpose of advancing” one religion over the other. The secular purpose requirement “‘nevertheless serves an important function,’” because “[b]y showing a purpose to favor religion, the government sends the…message to…nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members.” This message of exclusion from the political community is all the more conspicuous when the government acts with a specific purpose to disfavor a particular religion. (internal citations omitted).

(Aziz, at *13-14).

In order to assess whether there was discriminatory intent in the January 27 EO, Judge Brinkema cites heavily to statements made by Trump during his campaign, especially noting that a “Muslim Ban” was a central feature of his platform. She also pointed to post-election and post-inaugural interviews where he speaks about the need to prioritize Christian refugees. She also cites to a particularly intriguing quote by Rudy Giuliani, who stated after the EO’s enactment, that “when [Trump] first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’…And what we did was, we focused on, instead of religion, danger—the areas of the word that create danger for us…Which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible. And that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are [sic] substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.” Additionally, Judge Brinkema noted that post-hoc statements by DHS Secretary Kelly and White House Chief Counsel proclaiming that this is not a Muslim ban will be given little weight because we are looking to past intent in our analysis.

These statements taken together go to show that the ultimate aim of the Trump Administration is to ban Muslims. Even in light of the new EO, which may or may not include non-Muslim majority countries, these statements cannot be washed away. The intent to ban Muslims is there. The intent to violate the Establishment Clause, without outright saying it, is there. “‘The world is not made brand new every morning,’ a person is not made brand new simply by taking the oath of office.” Aziz, at *15. Trump’s new EO is only being reissued because he and his Administration know it is likely that his January 27 EO is unconstitutional. Essentially, the new EO will be a repackaging of the old. The intent, therefore, remains to ban Muslims. This is the case even if the new EO proposes to ban future entrants. While people with no ties to the US may not have the same constitutional rights as lawful permanent residents, such a person who wishes to visit a US citizen relative or attend a US educational institution could still likely be able to challenge an unconstitutional EO pursuant to Boumediene v. Bush and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.

Balancing the Government and State’s Interests

Given that plaintiffs can likely prevail on the Establishment Clause argument, the government must prove that its national security concerns are bona fide. This means that the government must present evidence to support its assertions that these EOs are vital for the preservation of national security. Judge Brinkema again notes that in the Virginia case, the government failed to provide any evidence to support their claim. The Ninth Circuit also noted that no evidence had been proffered to point to terrorist threats of nationals from the original seven banned countries. In fact, Judge Brinkema states that the only evidence offered in this regard is the declaration of 10 national security experts who declared that the January 27 EO only serves to make the country less safe. It is possible, though, that a court may follow what the Massachusetts district court in Louhghalam v. Trump did, and grant the President this authority and not find discriminatory intent (although the court rendered this decision to justify not extending the injunction indefinitely, which it did initially, and did not analyze the discriminatory intent).

It is clear to us, and hopefully to a court that hears the new challenge,  that the discriminatory intent will still exist in this new EO, thereby remaining in violation of the Establishment Clause. While it remains unclear if courts will find that this new EO puts forth facially legitimate national security concerns, it will still possess discriminatory intent, specifically banning Muslims, and will fail under the “bona fide” prong put forth in Kleindienst. See also American Academy of Religions v. Napolitano, 573 F.3d 115 (2009).  If the EO is found to possess facially legitimate national security concerns, but also formed in bad faith, it will be up to the courts to decide if these national security concerns have enough muster to overcome constitutional constraints. But history has repeatedly shown that national security concerns have been conveniently and falsely invoked even to deprive US citizens of their rights as with the shameful internment of Japanese Americans.

These national security concerns, in our opinion,  are invalid and cannot even pass the facially legitimate prong. Immigrants and refugees face numerous screenings before being granted admission into the United States. In addition, the immigration process can take years. The government in the January 27 EO proceedings failed to offer evidence that these processes were defective in their ability to screen out security threats. Further, it is unlikely that a terrorist would go through the trouble of filing an nonimmigrant/immigrant petition, only to be vetted several times over, then be subjected to a consular interview, and then still have to make it through Customs and Border Protection. It is an inefficient means to their end. Even attempting to ban prospective entrants who have not had ties with the United States cannot be justified if the ban violates the Establishment Clause. Since Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803),  the Supreme Court has recognized that when a government action is in conflict with the Constitution, it is for the judiciary to say what the law is. This is the wonderful balance that preserves American democracy. White House advisor Stephen Miller was wrong to assert that an unelected judge cannot check the President’s power in the area of immigration. The will of the majority, even in a democracy, cannot trample upon the rights of others. If that happens, the judiciary applies the breaks on such abuse of power so as to protect those who are trampled upon by the majority.

But most importantly, the majority of people seeking to temporarily visit or immigrate to the United States are peaceful people. Just because they share a different religion, worldview, or skin tone than some Americans does not mean that they are somehow violent or a threat. In fact, the opposite is true. Immigrants have been critical in the continued advancement of our country. From science and technology, to social ingenuity and progress, immigrants have helped to continue moving our country forward. To equate immigrants or non-immigrants, especially those from Muslim-majority countries with terrorists is not only bigoted, but it is simply untrue. Profiling all people from a specific country cannot serve as a proxy for individualized suspicion and guilt. It is also a sloppy law enforcement technique as an individual who desires to harm the country can evade being part of the profile. There are other smart law enforcement techniques that have been successfully deployed to track and apprehend people who intend to do us harm than profiling all people of a country.

President Trump derives his authority to assert maximum power through the plenary power doctrine, which arose from a Supreme Court case in the late 1800s, Ping v. United States, 130 U.S. 581, that upheld the racist Chinese Exclusion Act. In the 21st century, after the United States has made such strides in civil rights, women’s rights, and marriage equality, there is no longer place for plenary power as a justification to violate the Constitution. Allowing President Trump to assert such maximum power, based on the plenary power doctrine, only takes America back more than a hundred years after all the progress that has been achieved. The plenary power, as asserted in the travel ban EO, also sends a wrong message to the world that America is no longer a welcoming place for people to travel, do business, temporarily work, or to make a permanent home. Being unwelcoming, arbitrary and intolerant is inconsistent with the notion of America as a great nation. On this President’s Day, it is important to reflect whether now is the opportune moment to reassess the plenary power doctrine that was grounded in a racist law whose purpose was to exclude Chinese nationals just as the current or future EO is aimed against banning Muslims. It is high time for the courts to once and for all recognize the supremacy of the Constitution over the president’s absolute power.

[Sophia Genovese-Halvorson, who is pursuing her JD degree at Brooklyn Law School,  is a Legal Intern at Cyrus D. Mehta & Partners PLLC]

Trump and the Snake

Donald Trump is fond of reading the lyrics from Al Wilson’s 1968 R&B hit song “The Snake” in his campaign rallies.  While this is a catchy tune, Trump has now corrupted the song by associating it with his opposition to Muslims. He first called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, including Syrian refugees, and recently modified it by calling for a suspension of immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States or its allies.  Trump most recently said that the United States should consider more racial profiling, in response to a question about whether he supported greater law enforcement scrutiny of Muslim Americans after the Orlando mass shooting. If all of these proposals were implemented, it would impede the ability of millions of temporary visa holders and immigrants to legitimately enter the United States.

This video depicting  Trump’s reading of The Snake in his rally in Greensboro, NC on June 14, 2016 is too chilling to watch, as the reading is interspersed with the ejection of a protestor amidst frenzied chants of “USA… USA”. Although the lyrics are inspired by Aesop’s fable of the Farmer and the Viper,   the lyrics appear very sinister when Trump associates them with his war on Muslims. The lyrics revolve around a tender hearted woman who rescues a half frozen snake. After the snake is rescued, he bites the woman, and when she is dying, the snake tells her that she knew very well that she took in a poisonous snake. One view regarding the moral of this fable is to teach the lesson not to expect a reward from the wicked. Another view is that the rescuer realizes that it is his own fault for pitying a scoundrel. Trump first associated these lyrics with Syrian refugees, fully realizing that almost all the refugees have genuinely escaped harm in Syria, and many have been desperate enough to even die, including children, while trying to reach safer shores.

Read the lyrics yourself to see how they have been twisted to suit Trump’s agenda:

On her way to work one morning
Down the path alongside the lake
A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew
“Oh well,” she cried, “I’ll take you in and I’ll take care of you”
“Take me in oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake

She wrapped him up all cozy in a curvature of silk
And then laid him by the fireside with some honey and some milk
Now she hurried home from work that night as soon as she arrived
She found that pretty snake she’d taking in had been revived
“Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake

Now she clutched him to her bosom, “You’re so beautiful, ” she cried
“But if I hadn’t brought you in by now you might have died”
Now she stroked his pretty skin and then she kissed and held him tight
But instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite
“Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake

“I saved you,” cried that woman
“And you’ve bit me even, why?
You know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die”
“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin
“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in
“Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake

 Trump has even more shamelessly exploited these lyrics after the massacre of innocent LGBT party goers in an Orlando night club by Omar Mateen, who was discovered to be a Muslim and born in the United States. The snake, according to Trump, represents the Muslim immigrant who was let into the country, and who now viciously bites the people who let him in.  Even though Mateen was a US citizen by virtue of his birth in this country, Trump falsely asserted in one of his speeches that he “was born in Afghan, of Afghan parents, who immigrated to the United States.” Trump went on to add that the  “only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here.”  While there was profiling of Muslim immigrants following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Trump’s proposals would far exceed the profiling policies that were put into place following 9/11.

Following 9/11, the Bush administration through Attorney General Ashcroft tweaked the rules to make it easier to detain immigrants. The expanded regulation, which took effect on September 20, 2001, authorized the then INS to hold any non-citizen in custody for 48 hours or an unspecified “additional reasonable time” before charging the person with an offense. In the post 9/11 sweep, immigrants from mainly Muslim countries were detained and deported in secret. Although they were detained because of immigration violations, it was under the pretext of investigating them for suspected links to terrorism. In the end, the 1000+ immigrants who were detained and deported in secret were not charged or convicted of terrorism.

The Bush Administration then implemented Special Registration, which applied to males from 26 countries, 25 of which had significant Islamic populations. Dutifully, 85,000 people lined up to register, thinking that they should cooperate with the government. 13,000 men who were found to have immigration violations, many of whom may have been on the path to getting green cards, were placed in deportation proceedings. Not a single terrorist was discovered under the Special Registration program, which proved to be a colossal waste of tax payer money and was disbanded.

Trump now wishes to take these discredited policies even further. Although there was profiling since 9/11, and every application for an immigration benefit since those attacks is viewed through the prism of national security, immigration did not stop. The basic architecture of our immigration system remained intact, and eligible applicants have been admitted while undergoing more extensive security checks.  If Trump’s proposals are implemented, there will be a complete ban on immigration from countries where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States. Just as finding out who is a Muslim would be unclear, it is equally unclear whether this ban would include people from countries such as Syria or Pakistan, or whether it would also involve certain European countries such as France, the United Kingdom and Belgium. Would it also include countries like India or The Philippines, which sends one of the largest numbers of immigrants to the United States? The ban would cover visitors, students and people from these countries, which have all inspired terrorist attacks on its soil, who are legitimately immigrating, including spouses of US citizens. To blame immigrants for the Orlando killings goes beyond the pale, which was perpetrated by a mentally unstable American citizen who may have been inspired by terrorism but also by hate against LGBTs. And where does this stop? Trump said that if the parents were not allowed into the country, this massacre would not have happened. But what about the countless gun deaths caused by other mentally unstable US citizens?  Is Trump blaming these killers’ ancestors who may have at some point in time come from another country? Trump is inappropriately casting doubt on an entire  religion of over 1.2 billion adherents worldwide who are essentially peaceful.

While Trump’s rhetoric is frightening enough, there is ample authority in the law that would allow him to implement his proposed ban if he became President. Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides in part, as follows:

(f) Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President – Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or ay class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

Apart from Congress putting a check on the President’s authority under INA 212(f), and possibly the courts,  the only likely limitations on the exercise of this authority is with respect to lawful permanent residents who have taken brief trips abroad and would be assimilated to the status of a continuously-present resident under Delgadillo v. Carmichael, Kwong Hai Chew v. Colding and Landon v. Plasencia. Even they would be at some risk of being denied readmission, and would probably be better advised not to travel outside the US under a hypothetical President Trump.

The good news is that despite playing to irrational fear and reciting the lyrics of The Snake, Trump’s poll numbers have slipped. The conventional wisdom used to be that a Republican presidential candidate who was forceful on security issues would gain an advantage prior to an election. It appears that the attack in Orlando has not helped Trump, and fear mongering may have lost its appeal.  This could well change if there was another attack orchestrated by a foreign terrorist organization rather than by an unstable US citizen, but so far Trump’s war on Muslims does not seem to be helping him. After all the senseless racial profiling following 9/11, it should become pretty obvious to the American people that profiling a whole community for the acts of one person is not a good law enforcement tactic. It would only alienate the community whose members are well integrated into the American fabric and contributing to the country, and who would also be willing to cooperate with law enforcement. It is also most un-American to profile a whole community as a substitute for individualized guilt, which goes against the principles upon which this nation was founded and has set an example for scores of countries around the world.

If Trump continues to slip, it is hoped that The Snake again be viewed as a cool R&B song in the soul music genre rather than a hate anthem against Muslims.