Sen. Coons, Rep. Lofgren lead bicameral amicus brief on Trump travel ban

February 17, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) led an amici curiae brief signed by 167 Members of Congress in support of plaintiffs suing President Trump in the Eastern District of New York over the recent Executive Order banning travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. The Members of Congress, 140 Members of the House of Representatives and 27 U.S. Senators, who are signatories to the brief have participated in the drafting of immigration and national security legislation and serve, or have served, on key committees with jurisdiction over these issues.

"President Trump's unprecedented Executive Order banning refugees and individuals from seven majority Muslim countries has caused confusion and chaos across the country and around the world," said Senator Coons and Representative Lofgren. "Moreover, it does exactly the opposite of what it intends – it undermines, rather than enhances, our national security interests. The order threatens critical international relationships and alienates those whose cooperation is needed in the fight against violent extremism." 

"While the order was drafted to appear neutral with respect to religion, it is clear the intent is to target Muslims while giving preferential treatment to Christians – as President Trump and his advisors have repeatedly stated they intended to do. This is a brazen violation of the Constitution's Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses and principles of equal protection, as well as the Immigration and Nationality Act's categorical prohibition of nationality-based discrimination.  

"The role of an independent judiciary in enforcing these protections is core to our democracy. The best way to protect the security of the nation, to uphold foundational American values, and to safeguard our democracy is to respect the Constitution's fundamental protections and the laws passed by Congress. By those measures, this order fails."

As the brief states, the Members of Congress are "committed to ensuring that our immigration laws and policies both help protect the nation from foreign and domestic attacks and comport with fundamental constitutional principles, such as religious freedom and equal protection under the law." 

The brief goes on, explaining that the Executive Order "is vastly overbroad—targeting both individuals and countries in a way that does nothing to further the Order's stated purpose of ‘protect[ing] the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.'"

When the Executive Order was issued on January 27, the plaintiffs were detained at JFK Airport upon arrival to the United States. The ACLU, the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and the National Immigration Law Center are representing the plaintiffs in this class-action lawsuit challenging the President's Executive Order.

One plaintiff was immigrating to the United States after being granted a Special Immigrant Visa for his service as an interpreter to U.S. forces. The other plaintiff was immigrating through a Follow to Join Visa, intending to reunite with his wife and son, who were granted refugee status due to their family's association with the United States military.