A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to respond to a request by Americans United and our allies for reports used to justify Muslim Ban 3.0.
When Trump issued the latest version of his cruel and unconstitutional Muslim ban that indefinitely bars citizens from several predominantly Muslim countries from immigrating or traveling to the U.S., he claimed a “worldwide review” of other countries’ immigration procedures justified his ban.
But the government hasn’t provided any information about that review to the American people to back up these claims; instead, the administration’s process to create and enforce the Muslim ban has been shrouded in secrecy. Given Trump’s long history of anti-Muslim rhetoric, it’s clear his intent has always been to ban as many Muslims from the United States as possible. The government has yet to provide any proof that this ban makes us safer; indeed, the government’s own research has shown that it won’t.
That’s why Americans United teamed up with Muslim Advocates, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the State Department to produce critically important reports the government produced about the process that led to the creation of Muslim Ban 3.0 and its predecessors.
We first filed our FOIA request in July, but the government never produced the requested documents. Therefore, we were forced to file a lawsuit, Brennan Center for Justice v. U.S. Department of State, to force the government to fulfill its legal obligation to provide the information or explain why it couldn’t.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe in New York ordered the government to produce the documents we requested by Feb. 9 or provide an explanation for why the reports are being withheld. “It has now been nearly six months since Plaintiff’s FOIA request was submitted, and nothing has been produced. Nor is there any schedule for production. Accordingly, the presumption of agency delay applies,” Judge Gardephe wrote.
The judge granted our request that the State Department’s response be expedited to ensure “the public interest is served” due to the “great public and media attention” garnered by Trump’s Muslim ban.
AU Legal Director Richard B. Katskee hailed the judge’s order: “President Trump’s Muslim Ban is a short-sighted, reckless policy that deprives American Muslims of the opportunity to reunite with family members, friends and colleagues – something that other Americans take for granted. So far, the administration has refused to disclose the information that it developed to justify the ban. Our lawsuit is designed to get this information out to the American people, where it belongs. We’re pleased that the court has agreed to expedite this process.”
Religious freedom is about fairness. It is not fair to treat people differently due to their religious beliefs, and it certainly is not fair to ban people from the United States. It’s unfair for the government to withhold the information that it claims it is relying upon to keep family members apart from each other. It is unconstitutional and un-American to single out people for discrimination based on their religion.
That’s why Americans United continues to fight Trump’s Muslim ban. We’re litigating several cases that challenge the ban, including Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) v. Trump, which was filed with our allies at Muslim Advocates and Covington & Burling in collaboration with the National Iranian American Council. In the IAAB case – the first to challenge Muslim Ban 3.0 – we represent six individuals who are all U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents with relatives who are blocked from coming to the United States by the Muslim Ban. IAAB, a nonprofit that serves the Iranian diaspora community, and the Iranian Students’ Foundation, an Iranian student group at the University of Maryland, also are plaintiffs. A ruling is pending in this case from 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on our argument that the Muslim ban should be blocked from going into effect.
Trump’s Muslim ban continues to cruelly separate families and indicates to American Muslims that they are second-class citizens in their own country. That’s why we’ll continue to fight it and show our support for Muslim communities.