Calling President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban "unconstitutional," Attorney General Maura Healey moved on Tuesday to add Massachusetts and the University of Massachusetts to a federal lawsuit seeking to strike down the executive order on the grounds that it violates residents' rights to religious freedom and due process.
The expanded complaint on behalf of the state and the University of Massachusetts will argue that Trump's temporarily halt to accepting refugees or immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries unlawfully interferes with "our economic lifeblood" and violates the constitution by giving preference to Christians from Muslim countries. The legal action follows a weekend in which at least a handful of legal residents, including two UMass Dartmouth engineering professors of Iranian descent, were detained at Logan International Airport as they tried to return to their homes in Massachusetts.
Healey announced the lawsuit surrounded by leaders from UMass, the business and hospital communities, non-profits and advocacy leaders who spoke about how the president's action could negatively impact the state, including "chilling" immigration from countries that provide the talent that drives the state's technology, medicine, research and academic endeavors.
"During his campaign, President Trump called for a quote complete shut-down of Muslims entering the United States. On Friday, he acted to make good on that promise....," Healey said during a press conference in her office. "The executive order is harmful, discriminatory and unconstitutional."
Though not strictly a Muslim ban, Trump's order blocked refugees from coming to the United States for 120 days and prevents people from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya, from entering the country for 90 days.
The White House said the temporary halt to immigration was imposed as national security measure to tighten the vetting process for immigrants from countries where terrorism has taken hold. Healey, however, said the order was motivated by "anti-Muslim sentiment" and "Islamophobia" and would not make the country, or Massachusetts, safer.
UMass President Marty Meehan said the public higher education system has 166 faculty and staff from impacted countries and more than 300 students. The former congressman said the order sends the wrong message to other countries that the U.S. works with and "undermines the mission of the University of Massachusetts."