Trump Creates 'Constitutional Crisis' as Travel Ban Enforced in Defiance of Court Orders
'We have a constitutional crisis today'
Chaos reigns in the wake of President Donald Trump's sweeping executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world.
"Obedience to specific court orders is what keeps us from being a banana republic or fascist dictatorship."
The most far-reaching court decision, issued Sunday morning by Judge Allison Burroughs and Magistrate Judge Judith Dein in Massachusetts, goes so far as to call for a total halt to detentions of anyone targeted by the travel ban.
Yet agents with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) on Sunday defied the judiciary and continued to enforce Trump's travel ban, despite immigration lawyers and even members of Congress pleading with them to enforce the federal courts' decision.
"Rogue Customs and Border Patrol agents continue to try to get people on to planes," International Refugee Assistance Project director Becca Heller told the Guardian at JFK airport in New York. "A lot of people have been handcuffed, a lot of people who don't speak English are being coerced into taking involuntary departures."
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) was turned away by CBP agents in Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C, prompting his declaration that the U.S. is now in a constitutional crisis:
We have a constitutional crisis today. Four Members of Congress asked CBP officials to enforce a federal court order and were turned away.
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) January 29, 2017
Indeed, flouting a court order "is a big deal for any government official—federal, state, local, executive, legislative, whatever," Abner Greene, a law professor at Fordham University, commented to the Huffington Post. "Obedience to specific court orders is what keeps us from being a banana republic or fascist dictatorship. That's a really big deal."
NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake agreed:
Warning to America: Notice how agencies simply following & implementing patently unlawful & unconstitutional Trump exec order w/out question
— Thomas Drake (@Thomas_Drake1) January 28, 2017
An immigration lawyer who was blocked from seeing detainees at Los Angeles' LAX airport described the situation as a "breathtaking violation of rights."
The situation was the same throughout the country. AFL-CIO policy director and special counsel Damon Silvers tweeted Sunday evening that no lawyers had been allowed to speak to any detainees at Dulles, either.
And Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted that multiple lawyers in California had reported the same:
I have received reports from attorneys in CA that agents are continuing to deny or delay entry to America to visa holders and others.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 30, 2017
The need for access to lawyers is dire, Slate reports: in one case, two young Yemeni brothers unknowingly signed away their green cards under pressure from CBP agents, before they were put on a flight to Ethiopia.
They "were straight-up bullied into having their green cards taken away," an immigration lawer told Slate's Dahlia Lithwick.
"We continue to face border patrol's noncompliance and chaos at airports around the country," Marielena Hincapié, director of the National Immigration Law Center, told the Guardian on Sunday, describing agents' behavior as "kafkaesque" and adding that the executive order "has already caused irrevocable harm, it has already caused chaos."
"Some immigration attorneys at Dulles want CBP held in contempt of court," reports the Daily Beast.
However, the "agency had gone to extraordinary lengths to stiff-arm attorneys," one lawyer noted to the Daily Beast, adding that "attorneys looking to get CBP held in contempt could have trouble making the case in court if the agency blocks them from learning the names of the people being detained—and, thus, being denied their rights to an attorney."
"It's so fucked up," the attorney observed.
As the chaos continues into Monday, many lawyers are advising green card holders with plans to re-enter the U.S. after a trip abroad to travel to Boston, because it was a Massachusetts judge who issued the most far-reaching emergency stay against Trump's travel ban.
The Boston Globe reports:
The order signed by Judge Allison Burroughs and Magistrate Judge Judith Dein, issued early Sunday morning, requires the government to release approved refugees and individuals with valid visas from the seven majority-Muslim countries listed in President Trump’s executive order—Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Iran, and Yemen.
A similar order from a New York judge blocks immigration officials from deporting those individuals upon their arrival, but it allows the government to detain them pending further legal review.
Meanwhile, Democrats are swiftly pushing back against the order, the Washington Post reports, with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) planning to propose legislation Monday night that would rescind it. Other Democratic senators are putting forth similar measures.
While the effort is not likely to succeed, Democrats reportedly hope it could have the effect of delaying consideration of cabinet picks Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general and former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, giving the two nominees more time—and Democrats more time to pressure them—to weigh in on the ban.
Illinois Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, both Democrats, also sent a letter to DHS Inspector General John Roth on Sunday demanding an investigation into DHS and CBP agents' conduct.
"The United States Constitution means little if law enforcement agents disregard it, or if Americans are unwilling to defend its principles and respect foundational constitutional rights, from due process to equal protection under the law," the senators wrote.
Democrats are not the only ones dissenting.
Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham issued a joint statement Sunday evening against the ban, characterizing it as a "self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism," and U.S. diplomats stationed around the world are considering taking the unprecedented step of filing a formal objection to the executive order.
ABC News obtained an early draft of the objection, and reported Monday that it argues "the executive order will expand anti-American sentiment and 'immediately sour relations' with key allies in the fight against terrorism, particularly many of the countries whose citizens are now blocked from traveling to the United States."
Indeed, Iran and Iraq are already taking steps to bar U.S. citizens from entrance in retaliation, as Common Dreams reported.
Sixteen state attorneys general also released a joint statement Sunday in which they vowed to fight the ban. New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman characterized the executive order as "un-American" as he shared the statement on Twitter:
— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) January 29, 2017
The ongoing protests continued through Sunday and Monday, demanding the release of detainees and the end of the ban:
— Nat'l Imm Law Center (@NILC_org) January 30, 2017
CHANTS in CHICAGO PROTEST!
— The Hummingbird (@Alifaith55) January 30, 2017
— Tabatha Southey (@TabathaSouthey) January 30, 2017
— lindsey brooks (@drgroovy77) January 30, 2017
— Marcus Yam (@yamphoto) January 30, 2017
DHS appeared defiant Sunday evening, however, releasing a statement that "President Trump's Executive Orders remain in place—prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety."
The department went on to explicitly defend the executive order: "President Trump's Executive Order affects a minor portion of international travelers, and is a first step towards reestablishing control over America's borders and national security," the statement declared.
Trump, too, was defiant, unleashing a stream of invective against Democratic politicians and protesters on Twitter Monday morning while an unnamed Trump aide characterized the ban as a "massive success story."
And while Trump's White House continues to attempt to argue that the travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries is not in fact a ban on Muslims, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani told Fox over the weekend that Trump wanted a "Muslim ban" and asked Giuliani to help him figure out "the right way to do it legally."