The state’s most powerful political and religious figures met Thursday with Muslim leaders in an extraordinary display of a coalescing opposition to President Trump’s immigration order.
The meeting at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, which came on the eve of a federal court hearing on Trump’s ban, was convened by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley and included Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
“It is just very important that our people see us sit down at the table as friends,” the cardinal told the group, according to the archdiocese’s official publication, The Pilot.
The cardinal, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston, expressed support for immigrants and solidarity with the Muslim community, which has been reeling since the announcement last week of executive orders temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.
“The discussion included recognition that Catholics and Muslims share a concern for the common good and together uphold our nation’s founding principles of religious liberty and acceptance,” the archdiocese said in a statement responding to an inquiry about the meeting. “Our country has been greatly enriched by our Muslim brothers and sisters, who contribute much to the civic, social, and spiritual life of our local communities.”
Muslim leaders said they described to O’Malley and the public officials how the immigration ban had affected their community, and they expressed deep concern about other policies the Trump administration might have in store that could affect Muslims.
During his campaign, Trump proposed increasing surveillance of mosques, and creating a commission on radical Islam. Muslim leaders are worried about policies they liken to “McCarthyism 2.0,” said Yusufi Vali, executive director of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.
“These kinds of initiatives, in which the community is painted with broad strokes as one of suspicion, along with Hispanic and Latino communities, are enormously detrimental,” said John Robbins, executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Committee on American-Islamic Relations, who attended the gathering.
The meeting, held in a wood-paneled room at the cathedral’s rectory, began with readings from the Bible and the Koran, those who attended said.
“Governor Baker often meets with community and faith leaders across the Commonwealth and appreciates hearing a diverse range of viewpoints from all communities,” Lizzy Guyton, the governor’s communications director, said in a statement.
The president’s executive order issued Jan. 27 temporarily banned refugees from coming into the country, as well as immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen; all are Muslim majority countries.
The order had sparked protests across the country, and lawyers for immigrants filed lawsuits in several federal courts, including in Boston, where an emergency restraining order was granted early Sunday morning that stopped the order from being enforced here.
On Friday, a federal judge will weigh whether to extend the restraining order and will hear other arguments in the case.
Lawyers for the Justice Department, in their first filing in response to the Boston challenge of the immigration ban, argued Thursday that there is no need to extend the emergency restraining order, because none of the plaintiffs can claim that the ban is causing them irreparable harm. All of the plaintiffs listed in the ACLU’s suit challenging the ban are in the United States.
The federal lawyers also laid out the basis of their case: that the executive branch has “broad power to control the admission of aliens into the United States” and therefore, the plaintiffs are unlikely to ultimately succeed — one of the standards required for a restraining order. Besides, the lawyers said, the ban is temporary, meaning that the plaintiffs listed in the ACLU’s suit can simply wait until the ban expires before attempting to travel outside the country.
The Boston case was one of several that civil liberties groups and immigration lawyers filed across the country on behalf of immigrants with permanent legal status or lawful visas who were prevented from entering the country and, in some cases, detained at airports. Other immigrants with lawful visas say they now cannot leave the United States because they would not be allowed to reenter.
On Wednesday, the ACLU of Massachusetts added six more plaintiffs to the case, including three Iranians who are lawful permanent residents; two Iranian nationals who have been living here on student visas; and Oxfam, a Boston-based international aid organization, which says the president’s order prevents them from bringing employees and associates into the United States to speak to policy makers about the organization’s work in other countries.
On Thursday, US District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton, who is overseeing the case, allowed Attorney General Maura Healey to intervene as another plaintiff in the case, on behalf of other residents and institutions in the state who, she argues, are also affected by the ban.
Though similar lawsuits are playing out nationwide, the proceeding in Boston is among the more advanced. In New York on Thursday, a judge extended a restraining order there. Government lawyers said they plan to seek to have the case dismissed, but they had not laid out their arguments as extensively as in the case in Boston.
Separately on Thursday, Gorton granted The Boston Globe’s request to give people electronic access to documents filed in the case. He had earlier barred the posting of the documents on the federal court’s electronic court docket network, as is routinely done in civil and criminal cases in federal courts.
The Globe argued for traditional public access to the documents because the lawsuit challenging the travel ban raises profound constitutional issues of acute public interest. Gorton agreed.
The Globe has also asked that Gorton allow the public proceedings in the civil case to be recorded on video, even though cameras are banned in federal courthouses.
Boston was one of 14 courthouses that participated in a pilot program to allow the recording of hearings in civil proceedings. That request has not yet been addressed.