Washington became the first state to sue the Trump administration with a filing Monday over the president’s executive order restricting refugees and immigration. It won’t be standing alone for long.
Since Donald Trump was elected president, Democratic state attorneys general have been forming a coordinated wall of legal resistance over immigration, environmental protections, health care, and other major issues.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told The Associated Press that lawyers, including attorneys general, are having an “awakening” regarding the Trump administration.
“This is a president who does not have respect for the rule of the law,” he said. “That’s something that bothers a lot of people.”
Schneiderman has given model legislation to local governments in New York showing them how to become sanctuary cities that would refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on some immigration enforcement matters.
Their plan for legal pushback has precedent: Several Republican attorneys general made it a practice to routinely file lawsuits against the policies of former President Barack Obama.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are taking up similar fights on behalf of individuals. But attorneys general —the chief lawyers for state governments — can sue more broadly on behalf of their states. Most are elected and thus can act independently of their state legislatures or governors.
“It’s my responsibility as attorney general to defend the rule of law, to uphold the Constitution on behalf of the people of this state. And that’s what we’re doing,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said when announcing his lawsuit against Trump’s executive order.
He said other states could join the lawsuit, which asks a judge to throw out key provisions of the order Trump issued Friday.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was set to announce details Tuesday of a legal action on her state’s behalf over the same policy, which temporarily closes the U.S. to all refugees and all people from seven majority-Muslim countries and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The administration says such action is needed to protect the country from terrorist attacks. Since it was issued, the White House has said people from the banned countries who have permission to work in the U.S. can enter.
On Sunday, 17 Democratic attorneys general signed a letter vowing to “use all of the tools of our offices to fight this unconstitutional order.” Most of the signatories were from states controlled by Democrats and that Hillary Clinton won in November. But also signing were the Democratic attorneys general from Iowa and Pennsylvania, which voted for Trump, and Maine, where the electoral vote was split.