Jane Doe No. 1, who fled Syria for fear of her life, lives in Wayne County, Michigan, and has filed for permanent residency in the United States. John Doe No. 2, a Somali Muslim whose home state isn’t identified, holds a student visa. And John Doe No. 6 of Albany County, New York, is a Muslim American who has filed a petition for his pregnant wife—a Muslim woman from Sudan.
If they leave the country, they will not be able to re-enter under President Donald Trump’s controversial anti-refugee executive order. Because of their countries of origin, they also will not be allowed to pursue a path to citizenship.
These are among the 27 faces of a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Virginia by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, challenging the constitutionality of Trump’s recent “Muslim ban” executive order.
Plaintiffs say the order is unconstitutional because its purpose and underlying motive is to ban Muslim people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
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“The Muslim community is a little bit anxious about recent developments,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad in a press conference, referring to the Quebec City mosque shooting on Sunday and a fire at the Victoria Islamic Center in Texas, among other events. “Our committee is not alone to be concerned about [Trump’s] harmful rhetoric and now his dangerous policies. Millions of Americans are very, very concerned about the direction in which he is taking our country. Millions of people who love America—individuals and countries are concerned and worried [about] what this president is doing.”
The lawsuit’s lead plaintiff is Linda Sarsour, a social justice advocate, Palestinian activist, co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, and executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.
While other lawsuits have been brought challenging Trump’s order, this one stands out for highlighting the varied faces that make up this nation of immigrants and describing how the ban directly affects them.
“We have medical students who are here, who are actually serving the American people. We have religious leaders who are here on R1 visas, who, if [they] travel back to their country, would not be able to come back. I mean, these are—we have American citizens who have wives who are also trying to get visas to come into the United States. We’re separating families,” Sarsour said in an interview with Democracy Now!. “The stories that we are defending in this lawsuit are a lot more important than my name, but being able to put a public face as an American Muslim on this lawsuit [is significant], because we will not allow Donald Trump to get away with this.”
The filing states that the underlying intention of Trump’s order is to ban Muslims from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and secondly, “to initiate the mass expulsion of immigrant and non-immigrant Muslims lawfully residing in the United States … based solely on their religious beliefs.”
Many lawful residents, including some of the plaintiffs, will be forced to return to their home countries where they may face persecution, torture, and even execution as a result of Trump’s order.
The order meets Trump’s campaign promise to implement “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” according to the lawsuit.
And it sends an official message that the federal government disfavors Islam and prefers all other religions, says the lawsuit.
“While the Muslim Exclusion Order does not apply to all Muslims, the policy only applies to Muslims,” the suit states. “And the absence of the words Islam or Muslim does nothing to obscure it.”
Awad—a refugee and a prominent civil rights activist who lives in Washington, D.C.—reminded people attending the press conference that the United States was “built on the shoulders” of African Americans who were forcibly brought here, and founded by immigrants who came to the nation’s shores seeking the freedom of religion and freedom of expression they did not have in their home countries.
Trump’s orders, he said, are destroying their dream and undermine “our national security, our values, and our standing in the world.”