President Trump’s executive order banning travelers from several Muslim countries as well as all refugees didn’t leave a lot of room for misunderstanding of its intentions, and multiple federal court rulings barring the implementation of parts of the order were similarly pretty clear. Among government employees, however, everything appears optional.
The ban was panned by the State Department, and the Justice Department took it a step further, insisting that they’re not even going to try to defend the order in court. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates added she doesn’t think the executive order wss even lawful, and doesn’t want department lawyers trying to defend the bans. She was fired later in the evening by Trump.
It’s as yet unclear if the Justice Department’s position will immediately change, but Sen. Jeff Sessions (R – AL) was nominated for the position, and a confirmation vote could happen as soon as Tuesday. Sessions is seen as generally anti-immigration, and likely to support the ban.
With Justice Department lawyers or not, a lot of federal judges appear to be extremely skeptical of the ban, and there were multiple emergency court orders staying the implementation of various parts of the ban within the first 48 hours after the order was signed.
The federal court orders don’t appear to be taken very seriously by some agencies either, with growing calls for the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to be held in contempt for not complying with an order by Judge Leonie Brinkema to give detained legal permanent US residents access to lawyers.
Instead of letting the lawyers in to talk with the detainees, the CBP instead just gave the detainees a paper copy of the judge’s order and a list of lawyers from northern Virginia who deal with immigration cases.
Lawyers seeking to challenge the detention are running into a brick wall, as the CBP won’t let them see any of those being held, or even telling them the names of the detained, and with no names they can’t file court cases on the detainees’ behalf.
Multiple members of Congress even tried to get involved at Dulles Airport, seeking to speak to CBP agents at the site. They were shooed away by police, however, who insisted all the border agents are in “a secure area” that Congress can’t access. Sen. Cory Booker (D – NJ) also demanded to see anyone from the CBP but was denied, with police only willing to take written messages to the agents, who are all behind locked doors.
This could quickly set up a battle of two federal departments, with the police responsible for enforcing the court order working for the Justice Department, and the CBP forces determined to spurn those order with the Department of Homeland Security.
The White House largely didn’t address the risk of internal clashes, or the CBP controversy. They did, however, respond to the State Department’s criticism of the ban by suggesting those diplomats who didn’t like it should resign from their posts to be replaced by people who are “with the program.”