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ACLU: We Have Won the First Victory to Overturn Unconstitutional Muslim Ban, But Fight Continues

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President Trump’s immigration order drew immediate legal challenges. On Saturday, the ACLU asked a federal judge to intervene in the case of two Iraqis detained at JFK airport. On Saturday night, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn ordered the men released as part of a nationwide stay on part of Trump’s executive order. Her ruling temporarily blocked the deportation of valid visa holders, including those from countries listed in Trump’s ban. In Boston, Carl Williams, a lawyer from the ACLU, announced the legal victory while standing in front of hundreds of protesters at Logan International Airport. Judges in California, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington quickly followed with similar rulings, and the Department of Homeland Security said on Sunday it would comply with the orders. But some lawmakers report Customs and Border Protection officers are defying the courts.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Omar Jadwat of the ACLU, your take—your organization’s take on this executive order? What you did immediately?

OMAR JADWAT: Yeah, well, I mean, the take on it, maybe not too much I can add to that analysis except put some legal gloss on it. The take on it is that Donald Trump promised us a Muslim ban when he was running for president. Within a week of taking office, that’s what he ordered. That’s unconstitutional. It’s subject to being struck down by the courts eventually, and we’ve won the first victory in that process with the stay that was ordered on Saturday. You know, there’s more work to be done, obviously, in that process. But the degree to which this administration has been nakedly discriminatory—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And it’s unconstitutional why?

OMAR JADWAT: Because the government can’t discriminate against a particular religion. It can’t favor one religion over another. You know, and this does both, right? Not only does it ban people—it’s an imperfect Muslim ban, right? Doesn’t get every Muslim in the world, but it’s a Muslim ban. And, as Donald Trump himself explained, there’s a specific provision to favor Christians from among the refugees that would otherwise be banned.

AMY GOODMAN: So let’s talk about exactly what happened in the courts. On Saturday, the ACLU asked a federal judge to intervene in the case of two Iraqis detained at JFK airport. On Saturday night, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn ordered the men released as part of a nationwide stay on part of Trump’s executive order, her ruling temporarily blocking the deportation of valid visa holders, including those from the countries listed in Trump’s ban. Now, if you could talk about who, Omar, these two Iraqis were—one of the Iraqis, a translator, who soldiers around the country started to stand up for, said, “He saved our lives.” Talk about Darweesh.

OMAR JADWAT: I mean, so—I mean, and this, this is the face of who a Muslim ban hits, right? It’s people like Nisrin. It’s people like Mr. Darweesh, who worked for the U.S. military for 10 years in Iraq, put his life on the line for our country in a way that most Americans don’t, and, because of what he did, you know, was trying to come to the United States and escape the possibility of retribution for what he had done for our country. We have a special immigrant visa process for folks who have helped the military abroad. He got one of these visas, got fully vetted for it, went all the way through the process, gets to the airport, and they say—well, they told him, you know, potentially that they were going to deport him back.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Let’s go to Hameed Darweesh speaking at JFK after he was released.

HAMEED DARWEESH: This is the soul of America. Now, this is what pushed me to move, leave my country and come here. And I’m very, very thankful to all the people who come to support me. Thank you very much. And always, when we are kids ’til now, we know America is the land of freedom, the land of freedom, the land of the right.

REPORTER: What do you want to say to Donald Trump?

HAMEED DARWEESH: I like him, but I don’t know. This is a policy. I don’t know. He’s a president, and I’m a normal person. But I have a special immigration visa in my passport, me and my family, because I worked with the U.S. government. I supported the U.S. government from the other side of the war. But when I came here, they said no. And they treat me as I break the laws or do something wrong. I’m surprised, really.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Hameed Darweesh speaking at JFK after he was released from detention. But I wanted to ask you: The judicial order prevents any deportations, but not the denial of visas, right, to people coming into the country?

OMAR JADWAT: Right. And that’s one of the reasons I say that there’s much more work to be done in terms of challenging this ban and in terms of striking it down finally. This is, you know, the first step, and it’s an important victory, obviously, for the people who had been stuck in airports. But more generally, it’s a demonstration of the fact that both the courts, you know, can stand up to the president on these issues and that people around the country can make a huge difference by turning out and by supporting, you know, immigrants who are being threatened by the Trump administration.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the turnout was astonishing around the country, thousands of people flocking to the airports.

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