Court issues stay on Trump immigration order

A federal judge in Brooklyn issued an emergency stay Jan. 28, temporarily halting the removal of individuals detained after President Trump issued an executive order the previous day that bars entry into the US of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries. The stay came as scores of refugees, immigrants and others were stranded at airports across the country. While the ruling blocked the deportation of some arrivals ensnared by the executive order, it stopped short of allowing them into the country, and did not actually weigh in on the constitutionality of the president's order. Large crowds of protesters turned out at several airports, including New York's JFK, to protest Trump's order.

Trump's order suspended resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely, suspended all other refugee resettlement for 120 days, and banned the entry of nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen for 90 days. The ACLU, which brought the challenge to the order, said, "This was a Muslim ban wrapped in a paper-thin national security rationale."

The ACLU brought the challenge on behalf of two Iraqi nations detained at JFK—including one, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who worked as an interpreter for the US Army's 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. The ACLU argued that Trump's order violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution. Judge Ann M. Donnelly issued the stay at 9 AM.

The executive order ostensibly halts the entry of refugees and nationals from the designated countries pending a review of the vetting process. Judge Donnelly's ruling applies to some 200 people already in the United States, and those who were mid-flight as the White House announced its order.

The order also places a cap of 50,000 refugees to be accepted in 2017, compared to a limit of 110,000 set by President Obama. Priority will be given to religious minorities facing persecution, with Trump specifically singling out Christians in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. The order also suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which allows consular officers to exempt applicants from face-to-face interviews if they are seeking to renew temporary visas within a year of expiry. (NYT, Daily News, The Hill, BBC News)

Hours after Trump signed his executive order, a mosque in southern Texas burned to the ground. The Islamic Center of Victoria, which supports some 100 local Muslims in the town roughly 125 miles from Houston, was completely gutted by the fire. The Islamic Center's president Shahid Hashmi said he watched helplessly as the mosque was destroyed. The local fire marshal said the cause of the fire is currently unknown, but is asking for the community's help in the investigation. (US Uncut)

Trump said the order was aimed at keeping out "radical Islamic terrorists," adding: "We don't want them here. We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country, and love deeply our people." (NYT)

Yet critics point out that the order excludes Saudi Arabia, where 15 of the 19 9-11 hijackers were from. The remainder were from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon—also countries not covered by Trump's order. Some speculate the order intentionally excludes countries where his Trump Organization has done business or pursued potential deals. Trump properties include golf courses in the UAE and two luxury towers in Turkey. (Bloomberg)

Trump commemorates Holocaust by barring refugees

How telling that Trump (no doubt with some prodding by Steve Bannon) actually issued his "Muslim ban" on Holocaust Remembrance Day. As CNN notes, the official White House statement issued for Holocaust Remembrance Day was brief, perfunctory and vague—not even mentioning Jews.  

We're reminded of how Trump was supposed to tour the African American History museum on MLK Day—but didn't. Instead, he cancelled the visit citing unspecified "scheduling issues" (although he did meet with MLK III at Trump Tower). The cancellation came just two days after Trump took to Twitter to diss Rep. John Lewis—a civil rights icon who famously marched with King into Selma in 1965, enduring a brutal police beating and a cracked skull along the way. (USA Today, NYP, Bloomberg)

You've got to be naive to think this is all coincidence and not (barely) coded messages.

Richard Spencer hails Trump's 'de-Judaification' of Holocaust

Haaretz reports that white nationalist mouthpiece Richard Spencer is applauded Trump's Holocaust Remembrance Day statement for not actually mentioning Jews, hailing this as a "de-Judification" of the Holocaust—and dissing Jews for "kvetching" about it. In a screed on his website AltRight.com, he griped with refreshing honesty:

We can't limit immigration, because Hitler. We can't be proud of ourselves as a Europeans, because Holocaust. White people can be Christian, but not too Christian, because Auschwitz. Und so weiter... Effectively, any policy, idea, or belief that is markedly right-wing and traditional—that evokes identity, power, hierarchy, and dominance—must be regulated by the possibility that it could potentially lead back to the German Führer.

The pro-Israel, pro-Nazi posture of the current White House should put paid to the old (and intentionally fueled) confusion between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

House Republicans intransigent on Holocaust "de-Judification"

Led by Rep. Joe Crowley, Democrats tried to force the House to vote on the resolution he introduced last week calling on the White House "to affirm that the Nazi regime targeted the Jewish people in its perpetration of the Holocaust." More than 100 House Democrats co-sponsored the measure. The Republicans used procedural maneuvers to avoid voting on it. (Washington Examiner)

How comforting.

White House face-off with judiciary

US Customs and Border Protection agents at Dulles International Airport are defying the order of a Virginia federal judge, and blocking attorneys from talking to the lawful permanent residents CBP is detaining there. (HuffPo) Other show-downs may be in the works. A pair of federal judges in Boston slapped a seven-day restraining order on Trump's executive order, on behalf of two Iranian professors detained at Logan Airport.  (Boston Herald) Judges in at least five states have now blocked federal authorities from enforcing Trump's order—the remaining states being California and Washington. (Reuters)

Uber breaks JFK taxi strike

Disgusted Uber customers are deleting the app after learning that the company defied the Jan. 29 taxi strike at JFK Airport. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance asked drivers to protest Trump's "Muslim ban" by not picking up fares at the airport that night. (NY Post)

Judicial Branch removed from White House website

The Judicial Branch is gone from the White House website. Take a look at the lower right corner under heading "Our Government"... Something missing? The Wayback Machine indicates it was removed shortly after the presidential transition.

Obama drew up Trump's list of targeted countries?

White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump’s executive order on immigration, arguing the Obama administration originally flagged the seven "countries of particular concern." Not quite true, as Trump added Syria to the list. But that is the only one of the seven actually mentioned by name in the text of the executive order. The rest are referenced only indirectly as "Countries of Particular Concern"—pursuant to a list drawn up by the Obama White House in 2015 and early 2015, for the purpose of restricting the Visa Waiver Program. (The Hill)

Is it a constitutional crisis yet?

Sure starting to look that way. With Homeland Security already bidding open defiance of the judiciary and saying the immigration ban is still on despite court rulings against it, the Obama-appointed acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, ordered the Justice Department not to defend the ban. Trump promptly responded by sacking her. She is replaced by Dana J. Boente, the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who is to serve as attorney general until Congress acts to confirm Jeff Sessions. (NYT, NBC)

Rudy Giuliani has meanwhile helpfully spilled the beans that, despite Trump's denial, it's a "Muslim ban." Said Giuliani in a Fox News interview: “When he first announced it, he said 'Muslim ban.' He called me up and said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’” (HuffPo)

Michael G. Flynn, the son of Trump’s national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, also appears to have deleted his Twitter account after using the hashtag #MuslimBan on tweets about Trump's executive order. (The Hill)

UN rights experts decry Trump immigration order

A group of UN human rights experts on Feb. 1 said the executive order on immigration signed by President Donald Trum breaches international human rights obligations. The UN experts said the order violates the principles of non-refoulement, the practice of not forcing refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country in which they face persecution, and non-discrimination based on race, nationality or religion. According to the experts:

In the midst of the world's greatest migration crisis since World War II, this is a significant setback for those who are obviously in need of international protection. The US must live up to its international obligations and provide protection for those fleeing persecution and conflicts.

An estimated 50,000 refugees are unable to enter the US due to the order,, which many claim to be unconstitutional. (Jurist)

UN secretary general criticizes Trump immigration policies

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said Feb. 1 that the new US order on Syrian refugees "should be removed sooner rather than later." Drawing a contrast with the US history on the "forefront of refugee protection," Guterres said that the policy violates "our basic principles." (Jurist)

Court issues 'nationwide' halt to immigration order

A federal judge on Feb. 3 imposed an explicitly nationwide hold on Trump's travel ban, siding with two states that had challenged the executive order that has launched legal battles across the country. US District Judge James Robart in Seattle ruled that Washington state and Minnesota had standing to challenge Trump's order, and said they showed their case was likely to succeed. About 60,000 people from the affected countries had their visas cancelled. 

White House spokesman Sean Spicer responded with a statement saying they "will file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate." Soon after, the White House sent out a new statement that removed the word "outrageous." (AP)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has meanwhile filed a class action lawsuit  accusing the administration of violating the religious freedom of nationals from the seven nations named in Trump's order. (Jurist)

The Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel has released a memorandum approving of Trump's order "with respect to form and legality." (Jurist)

Appeals court declines to reinstate immigration order

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Feb. 4 denied the Trump administration's motion to reinstate immigration restrictions until the case could be heard by the court. The emergency motion to reinstate the restrictions was filed by the Trump administration the previous day, arguing that only the president can decide who can enter the US and that the district court had "overreached" by second-guessing the president's decision in a matter of national security. The ruling means that the restrictions will be suspended until arguments have been heard by the court. The court gave the administration and the two states challenging the executive order, Minnesota and Washington, utnil Monday Feb. 6 to file further briefs. The restraining order was granted by a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Washington on Feb. 3 following a hearing. (Jurist)

Reichstag Fire ahead?

The Washington Post notes Trump's outrageous claim that the media are covering up terrorist attacks. "You've seen what happened in Paris, and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening," he said to assembled military leaders at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida (disconcertingly, to applause and cheers). "It's gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that."

This immediately follows senior adviser Kellyanne Conway bizarre claims about a non-existent "Bowling Green massacre."

And again displaying contempt for the judiciary, Trump referred n a tweet to Judge James Robart, who temporarily blocked his travel ban, as a "so-called judge. (NBC)

If there really is a terror attack on US soil in the current climate, it could well prove to be our Reichstag Fire. We at CounterVortex generally eschew predictions and conspiracy theory, but this time it fits the fascist modus operandi so perfectly that we feel the need to commit it this prospect to the record. We fervently hope we are wrong, but just remember: you read it here first.

Appeals court upholds stay blocking Trump immigration order

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Feb. 9 upheld (PDF) a lower court decision blocking President Donald Trump's executive order restricting immigration. In unanimous decision, the three-judge panel held, "that the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury." The court did not rule on the order's constitutionality at this stage but did stress that the president's order is subject to judicial review:

[T]he Government has taken the position that the President’s decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections. The Government indeed asserts that it violates separation of powers for the judiciary to entertain a constitutional challenge to executive actions such as this one. There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.

The ruling means that the stay will remain in effect pending further proceedings. The Ninth Circuit's order could be appealed to the US Supreme Court, which could choose to lift the stay or leave it in place. In response to Thursday's ruling, Trump tweeted, "SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!" (Jurist)

FBI calls on Syrian refugees

From New Jersey's Bergen Record, Feb. 14:

FBI agents have been calling Syrian refugees in New Jersey and asking to meet – alarming advocates who say they fear the visits could be a first step toward surveillance at a time when refugees have been cast as a suspect group.

The FBI's Newark division has confirmed that calls were made to refugees, but said agents were only trying to "build trust" and "open lines of communication" with the recently arrived immigrants and not for surveillance.

Still, advocates and civil rights attorneys said the FBI calls were worrisome, especially as the Trump administration takes a hard line toward refugees, attempting to bar them from the country and declaring that they haven’t been properly vetted.

"This is an especiall