By Amelia Heymann
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Attorney General Mark Herring praised a federal judge for issuing a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s temporary ban prohibiting people from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
Herring said the ruling suggests that he will win his lawsuit alleging that the ban violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion.
The injunction issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of Alexandria will last until the case goes to trial. Herring said people affected by the ban “can have a lot more confidence knowing that the commonwealth will likely win at trial.”
In granting the motion for a preliminary injunction, Brinkema cited Herring’s argument that President Trump’s executive order violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.
“The Commonwealth has produced unrebutted evidence supporting its position that it is likely to succeed on an Establishment Clause claim,” Brinkema wrote. “The ‘Muslim ban’ was a centerpiece of the president’s campaign for months, and the press release calling for it was still available on his website as of the day this Memorandum Opinion is being entered.”
Trump said he issued his executive order to ensure national security. He said he was putting a temporary halt on admitting visitors from seven countries that the Obama and Bush administrations had identified as terrorist threats.
“It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes,” the executive order said. It put a 90-day ban on people coming to the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.
In a telephone conference call with reporters Monday night, Herring said the Trump administration had “no evidence to support the bald claim that it was about national security.”
Herring said the Virginia case differed from other cases challenging the executive order. The states of Washington and Minnesota also sued over the issue and received a temporary injunction to block the executive order. A three-judge federal appeals court panel last week refused to toss out the injunction and reinstate the travel ban.
“While Washington and Minnesota alleged other violations including the Establishment Clause, the court was really focusing on due process – where in Virginia, the judge really went to the heart of the Establishment Clause case,” Herring said.
Herring, a Democrat, called Trump’s travel ban “unlawful, unconstitutional and un-American.”
“The overwhelming evidence shows that this ban was conceived in religious bigotry and is actually making Americans and our armed forces less safe at home and abroad,” Herring said.
On Twitter, Trump criticized the injunction, saying, “The threat from radical Islamic terrorism is very real, just look at what is happening in Europe and the Middle-East. Courts must act fast!”