Virginia is joining a federal lawsuit against President Donald Trump's executive order restricting travelers from seven Muslim majority nations from entering the U.S., Attorney General Mark Herring announced on Tuesday.
Herring, a Democrat, said Virginia must intervene, arguing that "countless" residents have been subjected to what he called "degrading and unlawful treatment" under the Republican president's immigration action.
"This order is unlawful, unconstitutional and un-American, and action is required," Herring said, flanked by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Solicitor General Stuart Raphael.
Trump's order suspends immigration for citizens of seven countries for 90 days and blocks refugees from entering 120 days. It sparked protests at airports across the country — including at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia — last weekend as travelers trying to enter the country were detained for hours, and in some cases, returned to their origin.
Virginia has asked to intervene in a lawsuit filed at the federal courthouse in Alexandria that focuses primarily on lawful permanent residents affected by the ban, including two Yemeni brothers who were traveling to the U.S. to be with their father, who is an American citizen. The two were handcuffed after arriving at Dulles, denied admission and sent to Ethiopia, where they remain in limbo, the lawsuit says.
A judge has issued a temporary restraining order in that case, barring officials from removing people in similar situations and allowing people who are detained to have access to attorneys. Administration officials have since said that lawful permanent residents, typically known as "green-card" holders, will routinely receive waivers from the ban.
"Virginia's decision to intervene provides further evidence of the serious constitutional and statutory flaws in the immigration executive order," said Andrew Pincus of Mayer Brown, one of the attorneys who brought the initial lawsuit.
Attorneys general in Washington, Massachusetts and New York have also sued the Trump administration over the immigration and refugee restrictions.
Herring said there are students at Virginia's colleges and universities who are unable to return to the state and professors and others working on the campuses who cannot leave because they won't be able to return. The full impact of Trump's order remains unclear however, Herring said, because Virginia officials have been unable to get information from the federal government about the number of people who were detained at Dulles or returned to another country.
Herring refused to take questions from reporters, citing the pending legal action.