Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson smiles during a news conference Monday in Seattle about President Trump’s new executive order. Trump signed an executive order Monday ordering new travel restrictions for residents of six Muslim-majority countries as well as a temporary ban on refugees from around the world, retooling a directive issued five weeks ago that stoked chaos at airports and drew international condemnation and a rebuke in the federal courts. The new ban, which takes effect March 16, halts travel for 90 days for residents of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

Washington state mulling further travel ban challenge after new order

By Gene Johnson

The Associated Press

SEATTLE — President Donald Trump’s new travel ban is more legally palatable than the old one, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Monday, but it still could prompt further court challenges from the state.

Ferguson said his office would evaluate whether the new order might have negative effects in Washington, including to its businesses and universities who seek to recruit or invite foreign talent, and likely decide by the end of the week what the state’s next legal steps should be.

Washington was the first state to sue over the travel ban, arguing among other things that it denied residents due process by barring them from traveling here without advance notice or a means to challenge the decision and that by disfavoring Muslims it violated the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

“Bottom line is the president has capitulated on numerous key provisions that we contested in court about a month ago,” Ferguson told a news conference at his Seattle office Monday. “This is a very significant victory for the people of the state of Washington.”

Unlike the initial order, the new executive order makes clear that current visa holders will not be affected, and it removes language that would give priority to religious minorities — a provision some interpreted as a way to help Christians get into the U.S. while excluding Muslims.

The administration has said the orders have been driven by legitimate security concerns, not “religious animus,” but given Trump’s campaign statements advocating a Muslim ban, Ferguson said he remains wary about the new order’s intent.

Ferguson noted that since the state won a court order blocking the travel ban, thousands of people had been able to travel to the U.S. — a fact that played out in joyful airport reunions around the country, he noted. More than 200 refugees have arrived in Washington since then, 80-plus from the seven countries covered in the first order, he said.

And, far from the president’s tweeted vow to “See you in court” after the adverse ruling, the administration had instead sought delays in federal court and declined to seek a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The administration since that tweet has done everything in its power to avoid seeing anybody in court when it comes to the original executive order,” Ferguson said. “There’s a reason for that. The president was essentially afraid to see us in court because he knew he would lose again.”

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee credited Ferguson’s “great work” and said Trump’s new order is “a full-blown retreat.”

Some of the state’s congressional delegation piled on as well, with Rep. Rick Larsen calling it “just as morally decrepit and unabashedly un-American as the original.”

But some legal experts said Washington, other states or civil rights groups would have a tougher time challenging the new order given its more limited effect.

“In light of the looming threat of terrorism, the president has both the constitutional authority and solemn duty to take reasonable steps in securing our border,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who also supported the original ban in a brief filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.