Americans United, Muslim Advocates and SPLC File Lawsuit Against Muslim Ban 2.0

UMAA v. Trump Describes Unique, Diverse Harms to American Muslims

WASHINGTON - Today Muslim Advocates, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Muslim community against President Trump’s second Muslim ban executive order. This lawsuit is the first of its kind to present a diverse set of harms to the American Muslim community not seen in other legal challenges to the ban.  

There are two sets of plaintiffs in the case. They include the Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA), the country’s largest organization of Shi’a Muslims, whose members are being deprived of religious learning, worship and services because their religious scholars almost exclusively hail from Iran, Iraq and Syria.  One of their scholars has already been denied entry under the first Muslim ban executive order, and he and other scholars are likely to be denied entry again.  The second set of plaintiffs are John and Jane Doe -- parents blocked from bringing their children home from Yemen.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The name of the suit is UMAA v. Trump. The word “ummah” in Arabic means “community.”

Click here to download a PDF of the complaint.

About the Plaintiffs and the Complaint

The Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA) 
Shi’a Islam is distinct from other major religions in that nearly all of its highest-ranking scholars live in the nations of Iran, Iraq and Syria. UMAA, which is the largest organization of Shi’a Muslims in the United States, has been organizing conferences and events around these religious scholars for years. Since most Iranian and Syrian nationals are banned under the executive order and Iraqis are subject to an unclear standard of extreme vetting, the members of UMAA are being cut off from their ability to study with their religious leaders, according to the lawsuit. This would be similar to banning all Catholic priests, cardinals, and bishops.  

John and Jane Doe
The Does are a Yemeni family of asylees living in the United States. As Yemen has been ravaged by civil war and famine, the Does were granted asylum in the United States but two of their six children are still stuck in Yemen.  The Muslim ban denies these children entry into the United States, separating them from their family and endangering their safety and well-being.

Key Quotes about the Case

Johnathan Smith, legal director of Muslim Advocates
“The Muslim ban is about religious discrimination at its core. The Constitution couldn’t be more clear: Americans have the right to worship as they choose and to keep their families intact.  This lawsuit is about the Muslim community having a seat at the table as the courts determine their most fundamental rights.”

Naomi Tsu, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center
“No one should be fooled by the latest travel ban. President Trump is still trying to deliver on his campaign promise of a Muslim ban. As this lawsuit makes clear, it’s wreaking havoc in the Muslim community by separating families and preventing others from practicing their religion. The Muslim ban is unconstitutional and it must end.”  

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State
“This lawsuit proves that President Trump’s Muslim ban isn’t just unconstitutional, it’s also cruel. It divides families and keeps children from their parents, for no reason other than bias and prejudice against members of the Muslim faith. The U.S. Constitution -- and simple human decency -- call for this ban to be struck down.”

Chuck Blanchard, Partner, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP
“Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP is honored to work with the plaintiffs in their efforts to overturn this illegal and unconstitutional Executive Order.”

About the Filing Organizations

Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths. Learn more at www.muslimadvocates.org.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org.

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer is an international law firm with nearly 1,000 lawyers practicing in 13 offices around the globe and is a leader in providing pro bono services.   For more information, see www.apks.com.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.