On Feb. 7, 2017, several individual U.S. immigrants, the International Refugee Project (IRAP), and HIAS, a refugee resettlement and advocacy organization, filed a class action suit—International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump—on behalf of all their clients. On March 16, Maryland U.S. District Court Judge Theodore D. Chuang partially granted a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that applies to Section 2 of the executive order, which prohibits travel for people from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. Meanwhile, a group of 13 states has urged the Fourth Circuit to reverse the federal judge’s injunction shutting down part of President Donald Trump’s latest immigration ban, arguing the measure was well within Trump’s constitutional powers as commander-in-chief and that the ban serves legitimate national security purposes.

Throughout American history, U.S. immigration laws have discriminated against Irish, Chinese, Japanese, and eastern European immigrants, to name a few. It is no secret that anti-immigrant hysteria—largely directed at immigrants from Mexico and Muslims or those associated with Islam—is at its peak.

Those challenging the immigration ban allege that Trump’s second executive order banning travelers from six majority-Muslim countries violates an anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (INA), a foundation of current immigration law, because it expressly prefers immigration from northern and western Europe. Advocates against the executive order, cite the INA’s provision that expressly prohibits the executive branch from discriminating against someone applying for a visa “because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.” When Congress passed the 1965 law, it wished to protect not just immigrants, but also American citizens, who should have the right to sponsor their family members or to marry a foreign-born spouse without being subject to baseless discrimination.

Immigration law, and its enforcement in the U.S., generally has been the primary province of the federal government. On May 12-13 speakers at the Immigration Law Conference will dissect issues of national security, territorial sovereignty, critical race scholarship, and equal access to public resources as well as the plenary federal power to exclude non-citizens in a panel titled “Race and Discrimination in Immigration Law.” Register for the Immigration Law Conference by visiting www.fedbar.org/immlaw17.

Conference attendees will have a unique opportunity to study how immigration laws have reflected policies targeting various racial, ethnic, and religious groups.  Moreover, panelists will examine the difficulty of separating lawful from unlawful motivations that accompany immigration controls.

In many ways, immigration laws have tried to exclude the disfavored groups of each era, usually defining those groups in racial terms. Immigration law determines who is admitted to the U.S. and who can possess full membership rights in society.  The limited opportunities for unskilled non-citizens to secure employment visas disproportionately affect people from the developing world, who tend to be people of color. People of color dominate the populations of undocumented immigrants to the U.S., and they have consistently been disproportionately represented among the hundreds of thousands of non-citizens deported annually from the U.S.

Our immigration laws (both current and proposed) provide narrower and narrower openings for legal immigration. Join the Federal Bar Association May 12-13 in Denver, Colorado, as immigration law analysts partake in an in-depth discussion on racial discrimination and immigration law. Sign up now at www.fedbar.org/immlaw17.


Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.