In the aftermath of the president’s executive order on immigration and refugees, attorneys Susan Church, JD ’95, and her husband, Derege B. Demissie, JD’97, teamed up with the ACLU’s Mathew R. Segal to file a temporary restraining order in federal court that resulted in the freeing of two Iranian professors who had been detained at Logan Airport on Sunday, Jan. 29.
The UMass Dartmouth engineering professors, nationals of Iran and green card holders/permanent residents of the United States, had been held by immigration officials at Logan Airport as a result of President Donald Trump’s executive order, issued on Friday. The Suffolk University Law School alumni, both immigration attorneys, and Segal worked feverishly at Logan and behind the scenes to ascertain which foreign nationals had been detained and then to track down federal judges to make a ruling.
Professors, Mazdak Tootkaboni and Arghavan Louhghalam have lived in the United States for more than 10 years and were returning from an academic conference in France. Trump’s executive order blocks nationals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States.
The ruling by Judge Allison Burroughs and Magistrate Judge Judith Dein, both federal judges in Boston, delays the enforcement of the ban in the Trump order for seven days.
The ruling instructs immigration officials to notify international airlines flying into Logan that foreign nationals will not be detained or returned based on the executive order. This requirement diminishes the likelihood of passengers being barred from boarding international flights headed for Boston and may make Boston an arrival city of choice for those questioning their status, at least for the next few days.
According to Clinical Professor Ragini Shah, who leads Suffolk Law’s immigration clinic, the immigration attorneys' petition argued that the travel ban in President Trump’s order is a pretext for discrimination against Muslims. “The attorneys argued that comments during the campaign by both candidate Trump and senior staff make clear that the countries chosen for the ban were based on the fact that they were Muslim majority countries in violation of the Equal Protection Clause,” she said. The judges appeared to have agreed with this claim, she added, as the ruling prohibits the order from being enforced against anyone from those seven countries who, absent the Executive Order, would be legally authorized to enter the United States.
The attorneys’ petition also held that “the EO [executive order] exhibits hostility to a specific religious faith, Islam, and gives preference to other religious faiths, principally Christianity. The EO therefore violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by not pursuing a course of neutrality with regard to different religious faiths.”
Shah said the Boston court’s order is the most far-reaching of the federal court orders in that it protects the broadest class of people and is the only one that protects against overuse of procedural instruments such as secondary inspection.
Boston Globe reports show a frantic effort by Church, chairwoman of the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and her colleagues to hit the deadline for filing the order and to reach judges to hear the case.