Federal Judge in Seattle Halts Enforcement of Portions of Trump's Immigration Order

The Hill:

A federal judge in Seattle issued a temporary nationwide restraining order Friday stopping President Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven countries from entering the United States.

Judge James Robart, who was appointed by former President George Bush in 2003, ruled the executive order would be stopped nationwide, effective immediately.

“The Constitution prevailed today,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement after the ruling. “No one is above the law — not even the President.”

“It’s our president’s duty to honor this ruling and I’ll make sure he does,” Ferguson added.

The ruling, made at the request of Washington and Minnesota, is the broadest to date against Trump’s executive order.


The order is here. The order specifies as follows:

It is hereby ORDERED that:

1. Federal Defendants and all their respective officers, agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and persons acting in concert or participation with them are hereby ENJOINED and RESTRAINED from:

a. Enforcing Section 3(c) of the Executive Order;

b. Enforcing Section 5(a) of the Executive Order;

c. Enforcing Section 5(b) of the Executive Order, or proceeding with any action that prioritizes the refugee claims of certain religious minorities; and

d. Enforcing Section 5(c) of the Executive Order;

e. Enforcing Section 5(e) of the Executive Order, to the extent Section 5(e) purports to prioritize refugee claims of certain religious minorities.

It further provides that it is nationwide in scope.

The legal reasoning for the ruling is not set forth in detail. The only law discussed in the order is the legal support for the court’s finding of standing on the part of the plaintiffs, the states of Washington and Minnesota. The Court found standing on the part of the states on the basis that “[t]he executive order adversely affects the States’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations, and freedom to travel. These harms extend to the States by virtue of their roles as parens patriae of the residents living within their borders.” The judge also notes that the states claim an interest in the functioning and missions of their institutions of higher learning, as well as “operations, tax bases, and public funds.”


The leading case on parens patriae standing is Alfred L. Snapp & Son, Inc. v. Puerto Rico, 458 U.S. 592 (1982). Under this case, a State must be more than “a nominal party without a real interest of its own.” The State “must assert an injury to what has been characterized as a ‘quasi-sovereign’ interest.” This can include the “health and wellbeing — both physical and economic — of its residents in general” but can also include “a similar state interest in securing residents from the harmful effects of discrimination” in order to “ensur[e] that the State and its residents are not excluded from the benefits that are to flow from participation in the federal system.” The Supreme Court found standing for Puerto Rico, while not a state, because of its “state interest in securing residents from the harmful effects of discrimination,” given that Puerto Rico’s residents often suffer from invidious discrimination. The Court found that if there were invidious discrimination as to states across state lines, “we have no doubt that a State could seek, in the federal courts, to protect its residents from such discrimination to the extent that it violates federal law.”

This does not seem to be the case for Washington or Minnesota, which are unlikely to be unable to fully participate in the benefits of the federal system because of the maltreatment of a fairly low number of their citizens.


However, interestingly, mere unemployment (or at least Puerto Rico’s inability to take advantage of federal laws dealing with unemployment) was also found to confer parens patriae jurisdiction on Puerto Rico. This seems to set a fairly low bar for parens patriae jurisdiction.

These are only preliminary thoughts. Clearly the judge’s ruling will be discussed more fully in coming days.

UPDATED to add the parenthetical in the penultimate paragraph.




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