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Frosh voices willingness to sue Trump if detentions continue

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said Monday that he would be willing to take the Trump administration to court if it continues its executive order and detains individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries at airports or seaports in the Baltimore area.

“It is unconstitutional; it is illegal,” Frosh said of President Donald Trump’s executive order barring entry for 90 days of nationals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen authorized to work in the United States. “It is certainly inhumane.”

Frosh said he has assigned his chief of litigation, Steven M. Sullivan, among others in the attorney general’s office, to monitor the situation in the state and develop legal arguments if necessary for the release of detainees. No detentions of foreign nationals have been reported at either Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport or at the Port of Baltimore, according to law enforcement officials.

The attorney general’s comments followed detentions of U.S.-bound travelers from these countries at international airports in Virginia, New York, Massachusetts and Seattle. Federal judges soon granted temporary orders ending these detentions but not before thousands of people protested at these and other airports, including BWI.

Frosh and 16 fellow Democratic state attorneys general issued a statement over the weekend saying they “will work together to ensure the federal government obeys the Constitution, respects our history as a nation of immigrants, and does not unlawfully target anyone because of their national origin or faith.”

Trump’s executive order affects not only the individuals detained but presents a threat to national security, as it is “handing ISIS a propaganda megaphone,” Frosh said referring to the Islamic militant organization.

The order “tells people in Muslim countries we don’t like them and don’t respect them,” Frosh added. “It’s incredibly counterproductive.”

The detention of people authorized to work in the United States harms U.S. businesses, Frosh said, including high-tech companies that rely on the expertise of engineers and scientists from overseas.

“We have been draining the brains of countries all over the world,” he added. “Not only are we turning off the spigot, we are reversing the flow. It is a really, really stupid idea.”

Gov. Larry Hogan’s office said in a statement this weekend that the governor’s legal counsel is “reviewing the executive order and its implications for Maryland.”

“The implementation and enforcement of immigration law and policies is the sole purview of the federal government,” the statement read. “This administration has and continues to support a strengthened and more clarified vetting process for those entering the country. Improving our national security can and should be done in a defined and concise manner that upholds our American values.”

Lawsuit in Seattle

The American Civil Liberties Union has so far led the defense of the detainees, saying their detention violates constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection, as well as the prohibition on laws respecting the establishment of or interfering with the free exercise of religion. Those legal arguments have yet to be fully aired in court, as the federal judges issued their temporary stays based on emergency pleadings.

“We applaud those decisions and will use all of the tools of our offices to fight this unconstitutional order and preserve our nation’s national security and core values,” the Democratic attorneys general stated. “We are confident that the executive order will ultimately be struck down by the courts. In the meantime, we are committed to working to ensure that as few people as possible suffer from the chaotic situation that it has created.”

One of those attorneys general, Washington state’s Bob Ferguson, announced Monday he filed suit against Trump over the executive order. Ferguson said the federal lawsuit would seek to have said it would seek to have key provisions of the executive order declared unconstitutional. The lawsuit also seeks a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the executive order.

“We are a country based on the rule of law and in a courtroom it is not the loudest voice that prevails, it’s the Constitution,” Ferguson said. “At the end of the day, either you’re abiding by the Constitution or you are not. And in our view, the president is not adhering to the Constitution when it comes to this executive action.”

Declarations of support from Amazon and Expedia — two Washington state-based businesses — will be filed with the lawsuit, Ferguson added.

Another signee, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, said Monday his office is looking into reports that Customs and Border Patrol agents violated a court order that concerned that Customs and Border Patrol agents have violated a court order that guarantees access to attorneys for people detained at Dulles International Airport.

On Sunday, CPB officials at Dulles declined to speak to four members of Congress from Maryland and Virginia who sought a meeting to discuss treatment of detainees.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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