The U.S. government was accused of failing to comply with a court order to identify people who were stopped at airports under President Donald Trump's ban on travel from seven countries, in one of several federal suits nationwide that attack his sweeping immigration order.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn, New York, ordered the Justice Department on Jan. 28 — a day after Trump's ban abruptly took effect — to provide the American Civil Liberties Union with a list "of individuals detained" while trying to enter the U.S. after the executive order led to travel chaos across the country. A week and a half later, that hasn't happened.
"The government has failed to identify even one individual held in its custody under the policy," Katherine Haas, a student intern at Yale Law School's worker's rights group, which is also representing plaintiffs in the case, said Tuesday in a statement.
The Brooklyn dispute comes as an appellate panel in San Francisco considers whether to keep in place an injunction against the ban that was issued by a Seattle judge in a related suit.
Either of the cases, or similar suits in Massachusetts, Maryland and elsewhere, may ultimately emerge as the policy-setter in the high-stakes fight about the extent of President Trump's authority.
The Justice Department claims no such list is required because travelers are no longer being held as a result of the executive order. The plaintiffs groups contend the order applies to people who were held and then released, and that the government is quibbling over the meaning of the word "detained."
"The government has chosen to avoid compliance by creating meaningless limitations on the word 'detained' in the court's order," Haas said.
"If you are aware of any individuals being unlawfully detained, please let us know and we will find out what's going on," Steven Platt, a Justice Department lawyer who is working on the case, said in a Jan. 31 email that was filed with the court by plaintiffs on Tuesday.
The plaintiffs groups also asked the judge to order the Justice Department to name anyone who was removed from the U.S. as a result of Trump's executive order, arguing they never should have been sent away in the first place.
Among travelers who were wrongfully barred from the U.S. is a student from Austria of Iranian citizenship who is pursuing her master's degree, the Yale group said in court filings. She was detained for nearly 23 hours before being removed from the U.S., the group said.
The plaintiffs also identified a woman from Sudan who was coming to the U.S. to care for her pregnant sister's special needs child was detained for more than 10 hours before she was sent home.
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