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California, New York mulling challenge to immigration order

Democratic attorneys general from California and New York are among states discussing whether to legally challenge President Donald Trump’s order to restrict people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, according to officials.

Democrat attorneys general are expected to be a source of fierce resistance to Trump, much as Republican attorneys general opposed former President Barack Obama’s policies. A lawsuit brought by states would heighten the legal stakes surrounding the president’s executive order, signed late Friday, as courtroom challenges to the ban have so far mostly been filed by individuals.

Trump put a 120-day hold on Friday on allowing refugees into the country, an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and a 90-day bar on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“The Trump executive order should not stand and must be confronted as a constitutional overreach,” said a statement from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “It tramples on centuries of American tradition.”

California and New York joined Pennsylvania, Washington and Hawaii in evaluating what specific claims could be filed, and in which court.

“We do believe the executive order is unconstitutional,” Hawaii attorney general Douglas Chin told Reuters on Saturday. He declined to give further details.

“I will do everything within my power to help lead the fight to permanently strike it down,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Saturday.

The New York attorney general used Twitter on Sunday to appeal to travelers detained at New York’s JFK airport to contact his office.

The states could decide not to file lawsuits, and it was unclear how many states would ultimately sign on for such an effort.

“There certainly are conversations underway,” said Joe Grace, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Trump, a businessman who successfully tapped into American fears about terror attacks during his campaign, had promised what he called “extreme vetting” of immigrants and refugees from areas the White House said the U.S. Congress deemed to be high risk. He told reporters in the Oval Office on Saturday that his order was “not a Muslim ban” and said the measures were long overdue.

Federal judges in three states followed a U.S. judge in New York in barring authorities from deporting travelers affected by Trump’s executive order. Judges in Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington issued rulings late Saturday or early Sunday.

The federal judge in New York said stranded travelers could stay in the country. The American Civil Liberties Union, which sought the emergency court order, said it would help 100 to 200 people with valid visas or refugee status who found themselves detained in transit or at U.S. airports after Trump signed the order.

The Department of Homeland Security said it would comply with judicial orders but that Trump’s immigration restrictions remained in effect.

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