On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, suspending the US refugee programme for 120 days, and banning Syrian refugees from entering the country until further notice.
Ian Samuel, a lecturer at Harvard Law School, explained the executive order – and just what is wrong with it – to Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera: What is the problem with the executive order?
Ian Samuel: The United States immigration statute had, for 50 years, prohibited the kind of discrimination that this travel ban engages in, and moreover, the US Constitution prohibits targeting people because of their religion, which this travel ban is a very lightly disguised attempt to do.
No civil servant who is covered by ordinary protections of the meritorious protection board is obligated to do illegal things in the course of their duties, and that’s exactly what this travel ban asks them to do, it asks them to do something illegal.
Could this executive order go to the Supreme Court?
Samuel: I wouldn’t be surprised. This is the kind of controversy that could make it to the Supreme Court, and it could make it there fairly quickly.
This is a rule of law issue. I could see [this] being the Trump’s administration first major defeat in the Supreme Court, where they find out that, actually, this is a country of laws.
How can people respond to this new regulation?
Samuel: There is no government programme that is self-executing. Everything that the government does, everything that the White House does, it requires thousands and thousands of people to carry it out, and those people are typically career civil servants – they’ve often been in the government for a long time, and many of them have profound discomfort with this travel ban. And the thing about this travel ban is not that it’s just a bad idea – it is a bad idea – but it’s also illegal.
So, if you are a federal civil servant, who’s been asked to do something illegal, I think what you should do is just say, “no”. And there are a whole lot of people who are out there behind you.
Is this response a form of civil disobedience?
Samuel: I actually think this isn’t a form of civil disobedience because the whole premise is that you being asked to do something illegal.
You are not engaging in civil disobedience; what you are saying is, “I am not going to violate the law, and you are asking me to do something that violates the migration status, and you are asking me to do something that violates the constitution.”
For more on this interview watch our Facebook video here.