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HIAS Files Suit to Challenge Legality of Refugee Ban

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BALTIMORE—Today, HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, initiated a legal challenge against President Trump’s executive order halting refugee resettlement. The order, signed on January 27, bans people from seven majority Muslim countries with an exception for religious minorities. As a religious organization that specializes in rescuing people from religious and political persecution, HIAS is challenging the constitutionality of this order, on the grounds that it discriminates against one religion while favoring others.

Although implementation of the January 27 executive order was recently put on hold after a stay ordered by the judge in a separate case, Washington v. Trump, the temporary restraining order is already under appeal to the Ninth Circuit. A decision reversing the stay could be issued as soon as tonight. Despite the current stay, a final decision on the constitutionality of the order has not yet been reached.

Paperwork was filed by ACLU lawyers on behalf of HIAS and the other plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division this afternoon. A copy of the complaint is available here.

“As an organization that has long partnered with the U.S. government, litigation is unprecedented for HIAS, but we feel we have no other choice,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “We cannot remain silent as Muslim refugees are turned away just for being Muslim, just as we could not stand idly by when the U.S. turned away Jewish refugees fleeing Germany during the 1930s and 40s. Our history and our values, as Jews and as Americans, require us to fight this illegal and immoral new policy with every tool at our disposal—including litigation.”

“President Trump’s Muslim ban is unconstitutional. Appropriately, the government is currently prohibited from implementing the executive order, and the plaintiffs in this case stand ready to take further action to protect their rights,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

“We are grateful to the ACLU for bringing HIAS’ case to the courts. We hope the judiciary will quickly help us end this discriminatory policy, so that HIAS can continue to advance our mission of protecting and resettling our refugee clients based on need, not stereotypes,” added Liz Sweet, managing attorney at HIAS

“We oppose religious discrimination, especially when it comes to vulnerable refugees seeking our protection,” said Hetfield. “The Torah calls upon us to welcome the stranger 36 times, it is the most repeated command in that sacred text. It offers no exceptions based on the race, religion or national origin of that stranger. This discriminatory ban prevents us from living up to the full meaning of that call.”

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UPDATE: On March 10, HIAS filed a motion asking for a preliminary injunction on President Trump’s revised refugee ban. Read more.

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