Oxfam joins lawsuit against Trump’s order to ban refugees and immigrants

Oxfam staffers join a demonstration in Boston Saturday calling on President Trump to rescind an executive order banning refugees and immigrants. Photo: Jeff Deutsch/Oxfam

Together with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts attorney general’s office, Oxfam challenges an executive order that it sees as illegal, unconstitutional, and dangerous.

Concerned that its work on some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises has been severely jeopardized, Oxfam today joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s executive order barring refugees and immigrants.

Issued last Friday, the order prevents Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely, suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days, imposes bans on refugees on the basis of their religion, and blocks citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for 90 days. Oxfam works in five of the seven countries named in the ban: Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan. The other two countries are Libya and Iran.

Oxfam’s humanitarian efforts are crucial to families in those five countries. Oxfam America is one of the few international aid groups still allowed to function in Sudan, working closely with local organizations to provide much-needed relief to displaced people in Darfur and beyond.

As part of its work, Oxfam regularly brings staff members and partners from those countries to the US to speak with policy makers, business leaders, and donors here. These visits enable the organization to educate government officials about the political and humanitarian conditions in those regions, and to provide invaluable local information that could help shape US policy.

“We are joining this lawsuit because our ability to address some of the worst humanitarian crises around the globe is severely jeopardized,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.

“Oxfam staff and supporters proudly joined demonstrations in cities and airports around the country this past weekend to call on President Trump and elected officials to immediately rescind the executive order, and we are proud to also pursue this legal action.”

On Friday, within hours of the executive order’s signing, Oxfam launched a drive calling on its supporters to sign a letter to Trump urging him to rescind the order.

“Instead of affirming the values of the United States by granting safety and protection to refugees, you have broken with more than 40 years of bipartisan American policy – and over 200 years of American tradition - by slamming the door on innocent people in their hour of need,” reads the letter. Already, more than 36,000 people have added their names to the action.

Oxfam America President Raymond C. Offenheiser tells reporters why Oxfam is joining a suit to challenge an executive order banning refugees and immigrants. Photo by Alissa Rooney

Executive order violates federal law

According to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, the suit “claims that the executive order violates federal law and calls on it to be declared unconstitutional – for taking the rights away from lawful residents as well as other visa holders without due process.”

Healey’s office also said the complaint charges that “the executive order violates the due process guarantee of the Fifth Amendment, violates the Establishment Clause by preferring Christian immigrants over those who are Muslim, violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act, and infringes on Massachusetts’s sovereign authority in violation of the Tenth Amendment.”

The suit was first filed by the ACLU on Saturday after two associate professors from the University of Massachusetts were detained at Logan Airport in Boston.

“Harm to our institutions, our citizens, and our businesses is harm to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Healey. “The president’s executive order is a threat to our constitution. Rather than protecting our national security, it stigmatizes those who would lawfully emigrate to our state. With this policy, our global universities, hospitals, businesses and start-ups, and far too many students and residents have been put at risk. On behalf of the Commonwealth, my office is challenging the immigration ban to hold this administration accountable for its un-American, discriminatory, and reckless decision-making.”

Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, welcomed the support of Oxfam and Healey in challenging  Trump’s “illegal, unconstitutional, and dangerous executive order.”

“Their participation highlights the importance of this case to the lives of people throughout Massachusetts, the nation, and the world. We welcome all freedom-loving people to join efforts to defend our democracy, and to ensure liberty and justice for all,” she said

“We as Americans must not close our minds, hearts, or our borders,” added Offenheiser. “Oxfam calls on President Trump to immediately rescind this discriminatory and harmful executive order so that our country may continue to live up to the noble values upon which it was founded.”

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