CNA Students, Faculty, and Partners Respond to Trump Immigration Travel Ban and Help Minnesota Win Nationwide Injunction

February 6, 2017

Over the past week, students and faculty from the Law School’s Center for New Americans joined forces with lawyers from the Center’s law firm and nonprofit partners to mobilize a rapid response to President Donald Trump’s January 27 executive order barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations. CNA’s work unfolded on many fronts, in Minnesota and across the country, and contributed to the Minnesota attorney general’s joint lawsuit with the state of Washington that, late Friday, secured a federal court injunction temporarily blocking the executive order nationwide.

Immediately after Trump signed the executive order, CNA teaching fellow Regina Jefferies and Professor Linus Chan helped organize a volunteer project that brought dozens of law students and lawyers to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to monitor the unfolding events and assist arriving immigrants who were affected by the ban. In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Jefferies said there had been a “huge response” from those wanting to help. On Thursday, she participated in a rapid-response legal training for nearly 150 volunteer attorneys at the offices of Robins Kaplan LLP, a Center partner.

“This seems like such a fundamental violation of the basic principles of due process and rule of law,” Jefferies told Minnesota Lawyer.

At the same time, CNA students joined with attorneys from Dorsey and Whitney, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, and other Center partners to represent Somali Minnesota resident Samira Dahir and her 4-year-old daughter, Mushkaad. The government had approved the child to enter the United States as a refugee last Monday to reunite with her mother, but the intervening travel ban blocked her from boarding her flight. The Washington Post reported the story here.

While CNA law students helped prepare a federal lawsuit for Dahir, they also coordinated their efforts with Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office, which was preparing to join the state of Washington in a federal lawsuit, venued in Seattle, challenging the travel ban as unconstitutional. CNA students documented Dahir’s case and the cases of other immigrants and refugees in Minnesota harmed by the travel ban, and the attorney general’s office used these stories in its complaint. This past Friday, Feb. 3, a federal judge in Seattle granted Minnesota and Washington’s motion for a temporary injunction, which has blocked key elements of the travel ban nationwide. This initial victory has allowed thousands of immigrants and refugees who had previously been granted visas to return to the United States on those visas to reunite with family and go forward with planned studies at universities, including the University of Minnesota.

Adding to the growing tide of federal cases, the Center for New Americans also filed a lawsuit on Friday in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of two Minnesota families. In both situations, the husbands are residents of the United States and their wives had passed all background checks, submitted all necessary documents, completed all necessary interviews, and been approved for immigrant visas, making them eligible for green cards upon entering the U.S. Co-counsel included The Advocates for Human Rights, AMA Law Group, Apollo Law, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll (acting as local counsel). The case was reported in the Star Tribune here. One of the plaintiffs, Saido Ahmed Abdille, and her two daughters were reunited with her family at MSP airport yesterday.

On other fronts:

Professor Deepinder Mayell, director of the Center’s Education and Outreach Program, and Kjerstin Yager, coordinator of that program, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and law students and volunteer attorneys, conducted “Know Your Rights” workshops and case screenings in St. James, Minn., early last week. There is a large population of immigrants in rural Minnesota who could be affected by President Trump’s immigration orders directed at interior enforcement. CNA staff and students will be conducting similar screenings in rural Minnesota throughout the spring.

Last Thursday, Mayell, along with Professor Steve Meili, participated in a panel entitled “What is the Impact of New Immigration Policies for the U of M?”, held at the University Recreation and Wellness Center. Other presenters included Chelsea Flaherty and Linda Aaker, senior staff attorneys at University Student Legal Services, and Marissa Hill-Dongre, F-1 visa advisor and permanent residence case manager from International Student and Scholar Services. Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson and Professor Erika Lee, director of the University’s Immigrant History Research Center, also participated. The panel shared information to the nearly 200 attendees about the impact of the new executive orders on the University community, identified resources, and strategized about how to protect community members and other local immigrants and refugees.

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