Denver college student from Libya sues Trump administration over executive order

Posted at 4:18 PM, Jan 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-31 19:51:56-05

DENVER – A Muslim Colorado college student on Tuesday joined a growing list of people in various states who are suing the Trump administration over an executive order that temporarily restricts refugees and other immigrants from the U.S.

Zakaria Hagig, 24, who is originally from Libya but is legally studying business full time at Community College of Denver, had the suit filed on his behalf in U.S. District Court of Colorado Tuesday morning.

Read the lawsuit in full by clicking here.

The defendants in the case are President Donald Trump, the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, DHS Secretary John Kelly, Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and the CBP’s Denver Director, Lashanda Jones.

The suit claims that the administration’s order that bans travel from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days and suspends refugee admissions for 120 days violates Hagig’s Fifth and 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection, as well as the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

The suit states that Hagig should be able to go and visit his family in Libya without being banned from re-entering the country, which would currently be the case since Libya is among the seven nations listed in the executive order.

It calls Trump’s executive order “discriminatory, unlawful, and unconstitutional.”

Hagig has been in the U.S. for a little more than two years after moving from western Libya, and told Denver7 he wanted to challenge himself to go abroad for a better education and degree.

"I'm a lawful student and I have a visa," he said. "Why am I not allowed to come back? Just because of my race and or just because of the religion I'm practicing?"

Hagig's lawyers, former state Sen. Morgan Carroll and Alan Kennedy-Shaffer, argue that Hagig’s due process rights are violated by the order, because “due process requires that the government be constrained before it acts in a way that deprives individuals of liberty interests” protected by the Fifth and 14th amendments.

The suit also cites ongoing lawsuits filed earlier this week by people in New York, Washington, Virginia and Massachusetts against the executive order as basis for the due process violations argument.

It also argues that the order discriminates against Hagig based on his country of origin and religion, saying that since the president has made remarks in the past that he would ban Muslims from the country, that the intent of the order is to discriminate on the basis of religion.

“President Donald Trump and senior staff have made clear that executive order will be applied to primarily exclude individuals on the basis of their national origin and being Muslim,” the suit says, citing remarks he made in December 2015.

It also cites the president’s statements that preferential treatment would be given to Christians when a case-by-case basis is applied to certain aspects of the order.

On that basis, the suit argues that the executive order violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Cause “by not pursuing a course of neutrality between religious faiths,” according to the suit.

Finally, the suit alleges that the order violates constitutional and statutory rights of Hagig and others in his situation laid out in the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which bans discrimination when deciding to whom visas are issued on the basis of place of birth and nationality, among other things.

The suit asks a judge to issue an injunction that would keep Hagig and others to whom the ban applies from being banned, detained or removed.

It also asks a judge to declare the executive order “illegal under federal law” and unenforceable under the Constitution.

Hagig’s lawyers have asked the judge to schedule expedited arguments in the case and to award Hagig “reasonable costs and attorney’s fees” should the judge rule in his favor.

“Federal law specifically prohibits discrimination based on race, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence,” Carroll said in a statement to Denver7. “The Constitution guarantees due process and equal protection. We hope the Court agrees that the executive order is illegal.”

Hagig's case is among several that have been noted involving students at Colorado universities and colleges. Three Colorado State University students were affected by it over the weekend, and the university is still working to determine how to address the situation.

The attorneys general from Massachusetts and New York have joined the suits in those states. Republican attorneys general routinely filed lawsuits against the Obama administration’s policies as well.

Denver7's Sally Mamdooh contributed to this report.


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