Washington, Massachusetts and New York are becoming the first states to sue the Trump administration with filings announced this week over the executive order restricting refugees and immigration. They likely won’t be standing alone for long.
Since Donald Trump was elected president, Democratic state attorneys general have been forming a coordinated wall of legal resistance over immigration, environmental protections, health care, and other major issues.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told The Associated Press that lawyers, including attorneys general, are having an “awakening” regarding the Trump administration.
“This is a president who does not have respect for the rule of the law,” Schneiderman said. “That’s something that bothers a lot of people.”
On Tuesday, Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General announced separately that their offices were joining legal challenges to Trump already filed in their states by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.
The state officials’ plan for legal pushback has precedent: Several Republican attorneys general made it a practice to routinely file lawsuits against the policies of former President Barack Obama.
Unlike groups taking up fights on behalf of individuals, attorneys general —the chief lawyers for state governments — can sue more broadly on behalf of their states. Most are elected and thus can act independently of their state legislatures or governors.
“It’s my responsibility as attorney general to defend the rule of law, to uphold the Constitution on behalf of the people of this state. And that’s what we’re doing,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Monday when announcing his lawsuit against Trump’s executive order.
He said other states could join the lawsuit, which asks a judge to throw out key provisions of the order Trump issued Friday to temporarily close the U.S. to all refugees and all people from seven majority-Muslim countries and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.