By Mary Lee Clark and Tyler Hammel
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Attorney General Mark Herring, flanked by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, announced Tuesday that Virginia is taking legal action against President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Herring called the order “unconstitutional and unlawful.”
He said Virginia is already being hurt by the immigration ban. Herring said it affects the state’s businesses, schools and communities. He said the executive order prevents students who have visas to study at American universities from continuing their education.
“The commonwealth is compelled to intervene in the case pending in the Eastern District of Virginia challenging that executive order,” Herring said.
The case, Aziz v. Trump, was filed Saturday by Tareq Aqel Mohammed Aziz, Ammar Aqel Mohammed Aziz, Aqel Mohammed Aziz and John Does 1-60 as a civil action after the individuals were detained at Dulles International Airport.
The plaintiffs believe they were targeted because they are Muslim. They are alleging denial of due process and violation of constitutional rights regarding religion as well as a breach of the Immigration and Nationality Act and other laws.
“We have been working around the clock since Friday to examine this executive order before reaching this conclusion,” Herring said. “This is not an action I take lightly, but it is one I take with confidence in our legal analysis, and in the necessity of intervening to both protect the commonwealth’s own sovereign interests and vindicate its residents’ civil rights.”
McAuliffe said many companies have told him they are worried about their employees not being able to return to the U.S. He said he supports Herring’s legal action because of the commonwealth’s belief in religious freedom.
On Friday, Trump signed the executive order barring immigration from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The president said he took the action to protect the nation from potential terrorists. Trump’s order prevents citizens from the seven countries from entering the U.S. for three months.
In addition, Trump said the U.S. would not admit any refugees for four months. He suspended the entrance of refugees from Syria indefinitely.
After signing the order, Trump said it was not “a Muslim ban.”
“You see it in the airports, you see it in security. It’s working out very nicely,” Trump said. “We’re going to have a strict ban, and we’re going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years.”
The action has sparked protests across the United States.
On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a temporary restraining order blocking the enforcement of portions of the executive order. The restraining order allowed permanent residents of the U.S. being detained at Dulles access to lawyers and prevented them from being deported.
However, the restraining order was ignored by the Customs and Border Protection Agency and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, according to advocates for the detainees. They said customs and airport authorities refused to give the detained individuals access to lawyers.