On February 10, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit kept in place a lower court’s temporary restraining order to prevent certain sections of President Donald Trump’s "Muslim Ban" executive order from being implemented. The January 27 order suspended the refugee program, ended refugee admissions from Syria and stalled the provision of visas to nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Officials in Washington state and Minnesota challenged the executive order and won a temporary restraining order that extended nationwide. The federal government then appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit and asked for an emergency stay of the temporary restraining order, claiming that the president has the power to make immigration policy decisions, particularly for national security reasons.
In its decision yesterday, a three-judge panel unanimously denied the federal government’s emergency motion. The judges found that a stay of the executive order was actually necessary to avoid "irreparable injury" to residents, including faculty and students from the seven restricted nations at public universities, many of whom have been stranded, unable to accept job offers or travel for research as a result of the bans. The court also found that the executive branch’s decisions on immigration and national security issues are indeed reviewable by the judiciary, especially when they may be contrary to constitutional rights and guarantees.
However, the court did not reach any conclusions on whether the ban violates the establishment clause (which says the government can’t make laws regarding the establishment of religion) or the equal protection clause (which says that everyone should enjoy equal protection under the law) of the U.S. Constitution.
On the one hand, the public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies. And on the other, the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families and in freedom from discrimination. We need not characterize the public interest more definitely than this; when considered alongside the hardships discussed above, these competing public interests do not justify a stay.
While the Ninth Circuit’s decision means that officials cannot implement the provisions of the ban for the time being, it is likely that the federal government will appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
As people around the nation cheered the decision in the Ninth Circuit last night, a different situation was developing in parts of Southern California where the impact of Trump’s immigration executive orders was playing out. According to the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times, immigrant rights activists say that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were carrying out raids in Van Nuys, San Bernardino, Downey, Santa Paula and Oxnard, detaining at least 100 people, most of whom are Mexican nationals. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) characterized these raids as part of its routine enforcement practice, but immigrant rights activists say that they are anything but routine.
"ICE conducts these types of operation every single day," Jorge-Maria Cabrera, of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles told the Register. "But this is business as usual on steroids."
Harsher enforcement is expected as a result of the immigration executive orders Trump issued in mid-January. They provide for greater collaboration between local law enforcement and federal authorities and prioritize the removal of certain undocumented immigrants. The story of Mexican mother Guadalupe García de Rayos captured the nation this week after she was deported from Arizona and separated from her two children. Rayos, an undocumented immigrant who was once charged with using a fake social security card for work, had reportedly been checking in annually with ICE without encountering any problems. But during this year’s check-in on February 8, officials began the process of deporting her to Nogales, Mexico, in a clear reflection of the Trump Administration’s harsher response to immigration violations.
Though the judiciary seems to be coming to the aid of those aggrieved by the Muslim and refugee bans for the time being, the immigration raids are simultaneously striking fear into the hearts of many. Activists continue to remind each other—and the nation—that the fates of immigrants, refugees and people of color are intertwined. The rallying cry #NoWallNoBan seems more relevant now than ever.