State governments are preparing to sue over Trump’s immigration ban

The Pennsylvania State Capitol Building as seen from State Street in Harrisburg, the state capital.
The Pennsylvania State Capitol Building as seen from State Street in Harrisburg, the state capital.
Image: Reuters/Daniel Shanken
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Attorney generals for the US states of Pennsylvania, Hawaii, and Washington are weighing whether to pursue their own legal challenges against an executive order issued by president Donald Trump on Saturday (Jan. 27), according to Reuters. The order, which inspired large-scale protests across the nation, institutes a travel ban on entrants to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Legal experts argue that the order is, on its face, unconstitutional—a violation of the Establishment Clause, which forbids the federal government from preferentially treating any religious group over another. (Or discriminating on the basis of faith.)

“We do believe the executive order is unconstitutional,” Douglas Chin, attorney general for Hawaii, told Reuters on Saturday.

“There certainly are conversations underway,” a spokesperson for Pennsylvania’s attorney general added.

The nature of the claims to be filed, and where they will ultimately be filed, if at all, has yet to be determined. But some sort of coordinated challenge seems likely. On Sunday (Jan. 29), attorneys general for 15 states and the District of Columbia released a joint statement slamming the immigration order, pledging “[to] use all of the tools of our offices to fight this unconstitutional order and preserve our nation’s national security and core values.”

There’s a long history of state governments suing the current presidential administration. The state of Texas, for example, sued the Obama White House a grand total of 48 times since he took office in 2009—and many of these originated out of executive orders. Collectives of states sued Obama on everything from immigration orders to guidance on transgender bathroom usage, and most of them were home to large right-leaning voterships.

Are we due for an ideological reversal under president Trump? Probably. And the pushback against his immigration ban may be phase one.