Resistance: The legal fights in the airports and courts
Lawyers this week across the country in airports, courtrooms and on social media are showing why the Founding Fathers held an independent judiciary in such high esteem as these attorneys moved to combat President Trump’s executive order banning people from seven countries with Muslim majorities from entering into the United States. Several legal organizations filed emergency proceedings to halt the application of the order, and in response, several judges have issued orders, injunctions and rulings decrying and disavowing the constitutionality of President Trump’s executive plan.
The ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project filed a lawsuit on Saturday night on behalf of those held at New York airports. In response, a Brooklyn federal judge, Ann Donnelly, issued a ruling that allowed those immigrants who have arrived in the US to remain here, holding that they have already been extensively vetted and that there is no demonstrable harm to the United States if they stayed.
A similar lawsuit filed in Boston on behalf of two Iranian professors held at Logan airport caused US Judge Allison Burroughs to issue a temporary restraining order which prevents the removal of the professors out of the country. Her order goes beyond the named plaintiffs, however and grants a seven day order which prevents any US official from detaining or deporting approved visa and green card holders from being deported. Immigrant rights advocates are currently advising anyone trying to enter the country to fly into Boston, given the broad repudiation of Trump’s executive order.
Similar orders have been issued in Virginia and Washington, while other states have lawsuits pending. Several attorneys general, including those from California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, have signed a statement declaring Trump’s order unconstitutional and and vowing to fight for its removal.
In a more grass roots response, thousands of lawyers fanned out across the country offering legal services to those impacted by the immigrant ban. Lawyers hung their shingles in airports from New York to Los Angeles, and places in between, turning airport terminals into makeshift legal aid offices. Various immigration groups issued calls for help, and the cry was taken up on social media; in some airports there were more attorneys than there were clients.
When drafting the Constitution and the checks and balances system, the Founding Fathers wanted a judiciary able to act independently from the other branches, free from the influence of politics, politicians and fashionable ideologies. An independent judiciary upholds a fair and impartial system accountable only to the Constitution and the laws.
In a time of such political uncertainty, with the country divided by politics, economics and social status, and a leader prone to Twitter wars and issuing unconstitutional mandates, legal resistance to acts like Trump’s executive order plays a vital role in maintaining the ideals, laws and constitutional underpinnings of the country.
This week lawyers are doing the work so aptly described by Thurgood Marshall: “We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust … We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”
Photos are YouTube screen shots
Lisa Perez Tighe has been an attorney, writer and a professor. She attended the University of Notre Dame and New York University School of Law. A native of the Bronx, Lisa currently resides outside of Boston with her husband and four children.