3 reasons why Massachusetts will be a hotspot in the fight over Trump’s immigration order

Boston, MA -- 1/29/2017 -  Protesters rally in front of the State House to protest Trump's executive order banning people from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the country.  (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)

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Protesters rally in front of the State House on Sunday against President Donald Trump's executive order. –Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe

From the airports to the courts to the streets, President Donald Trump’s immigration order was met with displays of resistance in Boston.

Signed into law Friday, part of Trump’s order — baning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days — was temporarily blocked by two federal judges in Boston. But not before the swift implementation of the law sent local universities and companies scrambling to figure out how their students and employees would be affected.

The presence of these institutions, combined with the equally swift mobilization of residents and civil rights activists over the weekend, illustrated the reasons why the fight over Trump’s order will be as heated as anywhere in Massachusetts.

1. The people


From the start, elected officials in Massachusetts spoke out in protest of Trump’s immigration order.

Attorney General Maura Healey compared the order — which bans all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, blocks all Syrian refugees indefinitely, and suspends immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days — to taking a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Rep. Joe Kennedy, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh spoke at the Copley Square protest Sunday. And that was after Warren and Walsh rallied protesters who had gathered outside the international arrivals gate at Logan airport Saturday night. Rep. Seth Moulton also made the morning news show rounds over the weekend, denouncing Trump’s order.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks at Sunday’s protest in Copley Square. —Keith Bedford / The Boston Globe

And it wasn’t just the deep-blue state Democratic delegation making their opposition known. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker released a statement Sunday saying the order did not make the country safer and on Monday said he would support a legal brief being filed by Healey arguing against the order.

However, the display of defiance was perhaps most striking at the ground level. According to varying estimates, 15,000 to 25,000 protesters filled Copley Square to speak out against Trump’s order. John Robbins, the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Massachusetts, which organized the protest, says Sunday wasn’t a one-time thing.


“Boston has always been a city that is at the forefront of civil rights and protecting civil liberties,” said Robbins, whose group works to mobilize and inform individuals about Muslim civil rights issues (CAIR’s national office also filed a lawsuit Monday challenging Trump’s order on the ground that it targets Muslims in practice and in motivation).

In Massachusetts, Robbin says CAIR has always been received positively, but that residents have been particularly “galvanized” over the past 18 months in response to the political climate brought on by Trump’s rhetoric.

“In the face on so much animosity it’s been heartening to see so much support,” he said.

“Heartening” was a term also used by Aaron Wolfson, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, to describe the local “surge” of volunteers offering assistance. ACLU lawyers were among those leading the local legal effort late Saturday night resulting in a series of federal rulings temporarily blocking parts of Trump’s order.

Wolfson said the Massachusetts chapter received offers from residents to deliver coffee to sustain the late-night work to inquiries from local attorneys asking how they could best assist.

“People from around the state have risen to the challenge and are making an enormous difference in the fight against President Trump’s unconstitutional executive order,” Wolfson said.

According to Healey’s office, in 2015, Massachusetts accepted 900 refugees and asylees from the seven listed countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

2. The courts

Amid a number of middle-of-the-night emergency court sessions over the weekend in response to the chaotic unfurling of Trump’s order, two Boston judges issued a seven-day stay on parts of the president’s action.


While federal judges in New York and Virginia similarly ruled that those detained in airports across the country due to the ban could not be deported, the ruling in Boston went further. Judge Allison Burroughs and Magistrate Judge Judith Dein additionally ruled that those impacted — approved refugees and green-card holders — could not be detained.

As a result, some immigration lawyers are advising green-card holders (i.e. legal permanent residents of the United States) from the seven Muslim countries listed in Trump’s order to fly into the country via Logan airport.

Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, told The Boston Globe earlier this week that her group that her group was planning a “massive outreach campaign” to get green-card holders to arrange their flight plans to come into the country through Boston.

The White House has since made green-card holders exempt from the order, but its haphazard implementation has resulted in continued confusion as immigration officials try to comply with both the order and the subsequent court rulings. Subsequently, Henrike Dessaules, a spokeswoman IRAP, told Boston.com Wednesday the group is no longer advising people to travel through Logan, but will continue “monitoring the situation.”

A hearing on the status of the temporary ruling by Burroughs and Dein has been set for Friday in Boston.

3. The schools

A precursor to the court challenges and protests were the actual people who were blocked from entering the country at Logan International Airport. And the predominant reason they were flying to Boston were the prestigious local universities that employed them.

In her press conference Tuesday, Healey said one of the reasons Massachusetts is special is the international draw of its local institutions.

“As our college professors know, we have the best students from around the world, the best faculty, the best brains, the best scientists,” she said, later adding, “Because of our people, we’ve truly become a global state and a global leader.”

Thousands gathered in Copley Square on Sunday to protest Trump’s executive order banning people from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the country. —Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe

The original lawsuit filed Saturday against Trump’s order was filed on behalf of two UMass Dartmouth professors — a married couple returning from a conference in France — who were blocked from re-entering the country Saturday afternoon. Among many others, Trump’s order also denied entry to two scientists — Samira Asgari and Soheil Saravi — who were separately coming to Boston to work at Harvard.

A number of MIT students and scholars have also been affected by the order, according to a statement from school officials Saturday.

In a forceful public letter Monday, Harvard president Drew Faust said Trump’s order undermined the university’s “deepest values and ideals.”

“Among them is the recognition that drawing people together from across the nation and around the world is a paramount source of our university’s strength,” Faust wrote.

According to the Associated Press, students and faculty from Harvard, as well as the University of Massachusetts, were stuck traveling abroad when the order was signed.

“That’s just one reason why this executive order is such a threat,” Healey said Tuesday. “Because it threatens the vitality, the livelihood, the lifeblood that drives so much of Massachusetts.”

Attorneys for the attorney general, the ACLU, and other civil rights advocates will argue Friday morning in Boston’s Moakley Courthouse to have the temporary stay extended. It’s a fight not likely to die down anytime soon, especially in the Bay State.


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