Attorney General Maura Healey was joined by leaders from the business, academic, and health communities Tuesday in announcing that she is seeking to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven countries.
Healey said she is acting on behalf of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, which employs two professors — lawful permanent residents from Iran — who were temporarily detained at Logan International Airport Saturday after Trump’s order went into effect. The attorney general added, however, that the lawsuit would more broadly seek to protect institutions whose employees could be affected by the ban.
“My job is to make sure we are protecting the interests of residents, and businesses, and this state of Massachusetts,” Healey said at an afternoon news conference, flanked by close to two dozen academic and business leaders and civil rights advocates.
“We’re taking action because it’s the right thing to do, it’s the right thing under the law,” she said.
Healey filed a motion in federal court in Boston late Tuesday seeking to join a lawsuit filed by immigration lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts that challenges Trump’s ban. Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton did not immediately rule on the request.
The ban, which the president signed Friday, halted refugees from coming to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and prevents citizens of seven majority Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Syria — from entering for 90 days.
The order caused an uproar nationwide. Civil liberties groups argue that the order discriminates against Muslims and affects lawful immigrants and refugees whose status had already been approved. Two judges in Boston granted an emergency restraining order early Sunday and a hearing on a request for a long-term injunction is now slated for Friday. Similar lawsuits have been filed in at least four other jurisdictions around the country.
The ban is being challenged in court on several legal theories: that it discriminates against people based on religion and nation of origin; that it violates due process laws because lawful permanent residents who have been affected have no recourse; and that it violates the First Amendment as it pertains to religion. Trump had said after signing the order that Christians from the seven named countries could be exempted from the ban.
In saying that Massachusetts and its businesses thrive on diversity and culture, Healey argued that the ban affects the state’s ability to recruit students, workers, researchers, and professionals such as doctors and engineers from abroad.
Healey cited the case of the two UMass Dartmouth professors who were detained, and are listed as the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit, Mazdak Pourabdollah Tootkaboni and Arghavan Louhghalam. “They are training the next generation of Massachusetts engineers, but with a wave of a pen the president’s order kept them and thousands of others from coming home,” she said.
She was joined by Martin T. Meehan, president of the University of Massachusetts, who said the ban will affect other professors, as well as students and researchers.
“We are a world-class institution that recruits faculty from literally across the world,” Meehan said. He said that the university has 166 faculty scholars and staff and 300 students from the seven listed countries.
“Those students and those faculty members who come to us from other parts of the world are critically important to our mission,” he said.
Healey was also joined by business leaders who identified their institutions as victims of the executive order, because it affected their employees and ability to recruit.
They included Mohamad Ali, CEO of Carbonite and a representative of the Massachusetts Technological Leadership Council; Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam, an international organization that works on social justice issues across the world; and Mike Sroczynski, vice president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, who said hospitals and health centers have reported that staff, from clinicians to researchers to professors, are affected.
Offenheiser said many Oxfam employees come from other countries, including five on Trump’s list, to testify to policy makers about conditions in their homelands. He said that his organization would also be signing on to the lawsuit.
“We must bring these people into the United States because, in some cases, they cannot speak safely in their own countries. It’s not possible.”Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.