Americans United has represented parties in several cases challenging the various iterations of former President Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban. While the Supreme Court held in Trump v. Hawaii that the third version of the ban did not violate the Constitution or exceed the president’s statutory authority, Americans United remains involved in ongoing litigation related to the ban.
Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law v. U.S. Department of State
In July 2017, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the U.S. Department of State for records related to the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban. The State Department never responded with any documents or assertions of exemptions from the FOIA. So in October 2017, Americans United and Muslim Advocates filed suit in the Southern District of New York representing the Brennan Center, to compel the State Department to comply with FOIA.
After several motions and court orders, the government continued to refuse to produce the requested documents, declaring them to be privileged and therefore exempt from FOIA. The government did reveal, however, that its supposed worldwide assessment of countries’ information-sharing capabilities and vetting procedures, on which the Trump Administration said that it relied to identify the nations on the last version of the ban, was shorter than two pages long.
The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment in August 2018. In our motion, we renewed our argument that the government’s response was inadequate and urged the court to reject the government’s claim that the documents are exempt from disclosure. In March of 2019, the court ordered review of certain documents and otherwise denied the motions for summary judgment. We continue to litigate the case at the district court.
Muslim Advocates v. U.S. Department of State
In June 2017, Americans United, Muslim Advocates, and the Southern Poverty Law Center made requests under the Freedom of Information Act for documents regarding the waiver provisions of the Trump Administration’s second version of the Muslim ban. We had requested that the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and any other federal agencies turn over records pertaining to the interpretation, enforcement, and implementation of the ban’s provisions allowing for waivers of the restrictions.
Because the agencies didn’t comply with our requests for records, we filed suit in federal court in October 2017 to compel release of the records. In March 2022, the State Department satisfactorily completed its production of records. But the Department of Homeland Security has not yet done so, and therefore the litigation continues.
International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump and Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump (now closed)
In February 2017, the International Refugee Assistance Project and other nonprofits and individuals affected by the first version of the Muslim ban filed suit in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, arguing that the executive order implementing the ban violated the Equal Protection and Establishment Clauses and various federal statutes. In September 2017, after the second and third versions of the ban had been issued, Americans United and Muslim Advocates filed the first suit in the country challenging the third version, Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump, on behalf of an organization representing Iranian-Americans, an Iranian-American student group, and several individuals whose family members or fiancées would be denied visas under the proclamation.
Our case was consolidated with two others, International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump and Zakzok v. Trump. Both the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with us that our clients and the other plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of our Establishment Clause claim, and therefore enjoined the travel ban. The Fourth Circuit later held, after the Supreme Court’s decision in Trump v. Hawaii upholding that version of the ban, that the plaintiffs in the three cases could not go forward with their suits.