Three of the state’s largest immigrant advocacy groups are suing the Trump administration on behalf of two Minnesota families who could remain separated as a result of the president’s now-beleaguered executive order placing temporary limits on immigration.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court in Washington, D.C., just hours before a federal judge in Washington state temporarily blocked the refugee ban, halting enforcement of Trump’s order, which bars migrants from seven primarily Muslim countries. Minnesota was also a part of that groundbreaking lawsuit, because Attorney General Lori Swanson had joined the Washington attorney general in alleging that the executive order violates the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection clause, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act as well as due process.
On Saturday, Minnesota advocacy organizations hailed the Washington judge’s decision as a small victory but were unsure how long the stay will last — and how it might affect their own just-filed case moving forward.
“We don’t want to rest easy quite yet,” said Sarah Brenes, an attorney with Minneapolis-based nonprofit Advocates for Human Rights. “The decision was a strong sign ... it’s really clear the number of ways the order violates existing laws in the country that have been long since established, and the Constitution.”
Advocates for Human Rights, the Center for New Americans and the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, along with their legal partners, filed the suit Friday on behalf of two Minnesota men and their families, whose travels to the United States were delayed after Trump’s Jan. 27 order. In both cases, the men’s wives — who have passed relevant background checks and been approved for immigrant visas — were denied entry onto flights with U.S. connections, the advocates said.
Samaneh Raghimi had quit her job as a professor at Azad University to move to the United States to be with her husband, Farshid M. Zadeh, a legal U.S. resident. The couple were on a flight from Tehran, Iran, when the executive order was signed, according to the lawsuit. When they landed in Amsterdam, Raghimi was notified that she would not be permitted to fly the final leg to the United States.
Due to financial restrictions, Zadeh was forced to return to Minnesota without his wife, who flew back to Tehran.
In the second case, Mohamed Iye’s wife, Saido Ahmed Abdille, was approved for an immigrant visa Jan. 18 after a five-year screening process. She planned to bring over their two young children, who are both U.S. citizens, so their 4-year-old daughter could receive treatment for microcephaly. On Jan. 28, Iye’s wife was informed that she would be unable to board a Feb. 4 flight to Amsterdam, leaving the child without proper care in Nairobi.
As a result of the Washington judge’s ruling, Iye’s family is expected to land at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport around noon Sunday.
“It’s huge,” said Christopher Lee, an attorney at AMA Law Group PLLC, another plaintiff in the case. “She could have fallen into administrative processing once more ... and been delayed at least another 90 days.”
Their lawsuit is one of at least 63 across the country, including those by attorney generals in New York, Virginia and Massachusetts, challenging the order’s constitutionality.
Minnesota is currently home to more than 30,000 foreign-born residents from Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. according to the lawsuit.