Attorney General Maura Healey on Thursday said that she plans to join a Washington lawsuit challenging President Trump’s new immigration ban, aligning forces with the same team that secured a temporary halt of the president’s first version of the order, issued in January.
Healey is one of at least three attorneys general to sign on to the challenge filed by the state of Washington.
“President Trump’s second travel ban remains a discriminatory and unconstitutional attempt to make good on his campaign promise to implement a Muslim ban,” Healey said in a statement. “We are consolidating our legal efforts and joining fellow states, led by Washington, in continuing to challenge this administration’s unlawful immigration policies.”
The revised ban, which was issued Monday, halts the US refugee program for at least 120 days and bars the issuing of new visas for people from six predominately Muslim countries for 90 days, but removes language that prioritized religious minorities and clarifies that people from those countries who already hold visas or green cards would still be allowed entry.
It is scheduled to take effect March 16.
Washington was the first state to sue the federal government over the original ban, just days after it was enacted, arguing it discriminated against immigrants who live and work in that state. US District Judge James Robart in Seattle granted a restraining order to halt the presidential directive, and a federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld the decision.
Rather than continue the court fight, the president decided to craft a revised order that, the White House hopes, will pass legal muster with the courts.
But Washington state’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, said Thursday that he will ask Robart to rule that the original restraining order applies to the new travel ban, as well — a move that, if successful, would block the second order from being put into effect, too.
Ferguson told reporters that the attorneys general in Oregon and New York had asked to join his state’s legal action, along with Minnesota, which is already party to the suit.
The attorney general of Hawaii filed a separate suit on behalf of that state on Wednesday.
Rachel Rosenbloom, a Northeastern University law professor who specializes in immigration policy, said it makes sense for attorneys general to concentrate their efforts on the lawsuit in Seattle, because the restraining order Robart issued applied nationwide.
She added that “there’s nothing unusual with states joining together to challenge a federal policy,” noting several states joined a Texas lawsuit to challenge then-President Barack Obama’s immigration policies.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker did not directly endorse Healey’s decision to join the other states in trying to block the new order. But Lizzy Guyton, his communications director, said in a statement that the governor opposes the president’s travel bans.
“Governor Baker is proud that Massachusetts is a global community that benefits economically and academically from our diverse population and the administration will continue to communicate concerns regarding the disruptive orders,” Guyton said.
“The Baker-Polito administration does not believe these orders make our nation any safer and will review the legal proceedings carefully.”
The states argue the travel ban infringes on their sovereign rights by banning people who could work at or attend state institutions, such as universities and hospitals. The states would lose possible benefits, such as tax revenue and tourism.
The states also argue that they have a role to defend the immigrants and affected institutions.
In its suit, Hawaii said the revised order would harm its Muslim population, tourism, and foreign students.
Trump has maintained that he has broad authority over the country’s immigration system to ensure national security. He has said that the travel ban does not discriminate against Muslims and that the included countries pose security risks.
Healey’s announcement that she would join the Washington state lawsuit came soon after her office withdrew its claim in a similar lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Boston that challenged Trump’s Jan. 27 order.
Aaron Wolfson, a spokesman for the ACLU in Massachusetts, said his office was still deciding how to proceed in the Boston case, adding: “We remain committed to working with our ACLU colleagues nationwide to challenge the new Muslim ban and any actions we believe to be illegal, unconstitutional, and dangerous.”
The Boston lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Iranian nationals who have lived here as lawful permanent residents for more than a decade and who teach engineering at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. They were temporarily detained at Logan Airport upon returning from an engineering conference in France after the ban took effect.
A federal judge issued a restraining order in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, preventing the detention or removal of lawful residents and visa holders.
A week later, US District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton refused to extend that restraining order, saying the president has broad authority over immigration policy.
That same day, however, Robart issued a restraining order in the Washington case in a ruling that applied nationwide, making Gorton’s decision moot.
The national office of the ACLU also said Thursday that it will challenge the revised order on the grounds it discriminates against people based on nationality and religion, in violation of the First Amendment and equal protection laws.
“The president made clear that he wanted a Muslim ban, and merely tweaking some of the words in the order does not eliminate the taint of discrimination,” said Lee Gelernt, an ACLU lawyer.
Gelernt won the first restraining order against the earlier version of Trump’s travel ban in Brooklyn, N.Y.
He said his office will file a revised challenge in a lawsuit that was filed in Maryland, after the first ban was enacted. He could not say Thursday when the new challenge will be filed.
In the decision that put the brakes on the first version of the ban, the appeals court in San Francisco did not address the claim that the order discriminated against Muslims, though it recognized the “serious nature” of the allegations.
Rosenbloom, the Northeastern professor, said Trump’s legal team crafted new language and provided for exemptions in the new ban in an effort to protect it from new legal challenges. For example, the revised order says current visa holders and lawful permanent residents won’t be affected, and it removes language that would give priority to religious minorities.
The states’ challenge will be more complex, Rosenbloom said, but she still believes they have a claim.
“It is still a Muslim ban, and I do think there are good grounds to challenge it,” she said.
Ferguson, the Washington attorney general, said Thursday that it’s not the executive branch, but the court, that gets to decide whether the revised order is different enough that it should not be covered by the previous restraining order.
‘‘It cannot be a game of whack-a-mole for the court,’’ he said. ‘‘That [temporary restraining order] we’ve already obtained remains in effect.’’