On Friday night, United States District Court Judge James Robart (LAW ’73), a Georgetown University Law Center alumnus, suspended President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order temporarily barring entry to refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.
Intervening in an ongoing legal clash between immigration activists and the Trump administration, Robart’s ruling blocked the implementation of the president’s executive order nationwide. The Department of Homeland Security immediately returned to its regular screening procedures for all travelers to the United States. The Department of State also began to reissue visas it had cancelled after Trump signed the order.
After Robart’s ruling, the Trump administration asked the appeals court for a temporary stay before hearing from the plaintiffs. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined to issue the stay.
Today, the Ninth Circuit plans to hear oral arguments concerning the Trump administration’s appeal of the suspension.
Robart’s ruling in the case, which spawned from an appeal made by state attorney generals from Washington and Minnesota, marked the most comprehensive ruling compared to previous decisions by federal judges, which either temporarily blocked parts of the order or restricted its implementation on travelers already in the United States. No previous ruling reached an appeals court.
Last night, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals announced it would hear oral arguments Tuesday challenging and supporting the travel ban. The court will not determine whether the ban is constitutional, which is what brought it before Robart in the first place, but whether it should be temporarily suspended.
The Washington and Minnesota attorneys general argue that the ban violates the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment, since it requires the government grant preference to one religion over another. They also cite violations to the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits federal discrimination based on religion and national origin.
According to CNN, the Justice Department argues that Robart’s order should be lifted and the executive order be allowed to go back into effect while the legal process continues due to national security concerns.
Robart, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush to preside over legal matters in the Western District of Washington, had represented refugees and disadvantaged minority groups in court prior to his appointment, which was confirmed by a 99 to 0 Senate vote.
As a student at GULC, Robart worked as an editor at the Georgetown Law Journal.
Georgetown University Law Center professor Phillip Schrag, who teaches classes on representing refugees who are seeking asylum in the United States, said Robart had to consider his position as a member of the judicial branch compared to Trump’s authority to pass executive orders as president.
“The president has the most authority in terms of the courts deferring to him when he deals with national security,” Schrag, who also serves as the director for the GULC Center for Applied Legal Studies, said. “They are very reluctant to interfere with his authority in that area, and especially when Congress has spoken and given him some authority.”
Schrag referred to the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, which grants the president the authority to deny entry to “any class of aliens the president deems detrimental to the national interest.”
“That’s pretty broad language. It’s hard to imagine more sweeping language than that. That’s the language the president is relying on,” Schrag said. “However, there’s something to be said on the other side, too. A president’s order, in fact any governmental action, isn’t valid under the Fifth Amendment if it doesn’t have some rational basis.”
Georgetown Law’s Student Bar Association, the GULC student government, passed a resolution Jan. 31 in support of students affected by the executive order.
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Ata Akiner (LAW ’19), a delegate in the SBA, said part of his reasoning for helping introduce the resolution was the knowledge that his fellow GULC students were directly affected by the ban.
“Before proposing this resolution, I did confirm with the school’s administration that we do have students affected by the Immigration Executive Order that was passed,” Akiner wrote in an email to The Hoya. “They are very few in number, but in my view, even if one student were affected that is too many.”
Akiner said the resolution was passed with support from members of the SBA Diversity Committee as well as 27 GULC student groups, including the Georgetown Law Democrats, the Republican Law Students Association, an LGBTQ student group named Outlaw, the Muslim Law Students Association, the Jewish Law Students Association, the Christian Legal Society and the National Security Law Society.
Richard Hand (LAW ’18), who is also a delegate in the SBA, said he supported the resolution because diversity is a key part of a legal education.
“The reactions within the student body have ranged from outrage to concern,” Hand wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Many of us pride ourselves on the school’s international standing and the diversity of the student body. GULC is a tight knit community, so when we see our classmates afraid of traveling or lamenting the fact that their parents may not be able to attend Commencement, everyone is affected.”
According to Shrag, Robart had to analyze certain factors before making the decision, including how much harm would be done to companies, students and professors who were abroad during the time of the order.
Joshua Branch (LAW ’18), a delegate in the SBA and member of the Black Law Student Association, said he supported the resolution because of the tangible effects it has on GULC students.
“Speaking to the general response of law students, I think that a majority of law students have been concerned about the executive order both for our colleagues, families and friends, as well as what it means for what the United States stands for as a beacon of democracy to the world,” Branch wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Akiner expressed happiness to partake in activism at GULC.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am to be a student at Georgetown Law,” Akiner wrote. “Our motto is ‘Law is but the means, justice is the end,’ and I strongly believe that we are living up to that.”
Hoya Staff Writer Jeanine Santucci contributed reporting.