Trump Administration Retreats From NY Front of Travel Ban Fight

Thousands protested in Manhattan earlier this year the first executive order barring Syrian refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. (Photo by Adam Klasfeld, CNS)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – With Supreme Court arguments heating up for October, President Donald Trump waved a white flag Thursday on the original lawsuit that sparked a nationwide rebellion to his ban on travelers from Muslim-majority nations.

The settlement released Thursday ends wrangling over the case of Iraq War interpreter Hameed Darweesh, who had been held for 17 hours at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport after Trump issued his original order on Jan. 28.

Spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union, Darweesh’s opposition to the ban inspired a tsunami of litigation in Virginia, Massachusetts, California, Michigan, Oregon, Georgia, Hawaii, Washington, and elsewhere.

The Supreme Court agreed to decide the constitutionality of Trump’s revised order this fall, and Thursday’s settlement ensures that travelers like Darweesh know of their right to reapply for entry to the United States with groups eager to provide free legal counsel.

Darweesh expressed relief to have resolved the litigation.

“The United States is a great country because of its people,” he said in a statement. “I’m glad that the lawsuit is over. Me and my family are safe, my kids go to school; we can now live a normal life. I suffered back home, but I have my rights now. I’m a human.”

Attorney Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the Trump administration belatedly made the right decision for his client.

“Although the government dragged its feet for far too long, it has finally agreed to do the right thing and provide those excluded under the first Muslim ban with proper notice of their right to come to the United States,” he said in a statement.

Under the terms of the 8-page agreement, travelers held under the ban will not be able sue for damages. The government has 90 days to coordinate the process of apprising these travelers of their rights.

“The parties agree that neither the designee nor respondents will have any obligation to coordinate return of any individuals under this agreement after expiration of the 90-day period,” the proposed settlement states.

Attorney Becca Heller, the director of International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, cautioned that the deal is only the first step.

“The Muslim ban doesn’t just violate the Constitution, it flies in the face of dearly held values to live free from fear of persecution based on where we’re from or how we pray,” she said in a statement. “This case may have ended, but we remain more committed to the fight now than ever before.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas described the deal as in the government’s best interest.

“Although this case has been moot since March, when the president rescinded the original executive order and issued a new one that does not restrict the entry of Iraqi nationals, the U.S. government has elected to settle this case on favorable terms,” she said in a statement.

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