In stepping up legal challenges to President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, Democratic attorneys general are trying to use the court system to thwart the executive branch in the same way their GOP counterparts did under President Barack Obama.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Thursday he was asking a federal judge to find that his order last month halting the old travel ban applies to the new one, too. Ferguson’s action came a day after Hawaii launched its own lawsuit. Washington, Minnesota, Oregon, New York and Massachusetts planned to file a new complaint challenging the revised travel ban Monday.
“My message to President Trump is: Not so fast,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson and his fellow Democratic attorneys general are now doing what Republicans did when Obama was in office – filing lawsuits to block policies. Republican attorneys general took Obama to court over a variety of issues, most notably his health care legislation.
Attorneys general are the chief lawyers for state governments and can sue more broadly on behalf of their states. Most are elected and can act independently of their legislatures or governors, although Ferguson, for example, has the support of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, also a Democrat. Unlike the initial order, the new one says current visa holders won’t be affected, and removes language that would give priority to religious minorities.
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said that the state could not stay silent on Trump’s travel ban because of Hawaii’s unique culture and history. Hawaii depends heavily on tourism, and the revised ban would hurt the state’s economy, he said.
In the original lawsuit targeting the first ban, Ferguson said it was unconstitutional and hurt the state’s businesses and universities.
Ferguson said it’s not the government, but the court, that gets to decide whether the revised order is different enough that it would not be covered by previous temporary restraining order.