Tonight I have a renewed pride in being a lawyer, a New Yorker, and a naturalized American citizen. Tonight I had the privilege of being in attendance in courtroom 4G in the Eastern District of New York as Judge Donnelly ruled to grant a temporary stay on behalf of the ACLU against President Trump’s Executive Order banning refugees and countless others from entering the country. The government had little to say in response when Judge Donnelly pressed them asking how irreparable harm would not be caused to the petitioners if she didn’t grant the stay. She noted that if they had arrived a mere two days earlier, we wouldn’t be here in Federal Court arguing over whether they could enter the country or not. As the ACLU counsel pointed out; all these detainees had already been vetted by the government and had been granted some form of permission in the form of visas or refugee status in order to enter the U.S.
The petitioners are people from the proscribed countries, Iraq, Iran, Syria, among others, with a legal status to arrive in the U.S. and while they were literally en route in flight, with one flourish of his pen, President Trump signed an executive order which blocked their once legal entry. The temporary stay granted by Judge Donnelly will unfortunately not act to release the detainees, although the two named plaintiffs in the action were reported by the government as having already been released, but it does require the government to give the ACLU the names of all those detained and prevents them from removing them from the country until a final decision has been made.
The government’s feeble resistance to the Judge’s questions ended when she decisively said that she was granting the stay and immediately had to hush the audience as cheers threatened to erupt from all those watching. It was a thrilling experience to witness history being made as counsel for the ACLU fought not only for the rights of the named plaintiffs and the class of detainees; but also for all of us observers both inside and outside of the courtroom who have been wondering if this still is the same America we know and love; with liberty and justice for all.
Tonight we exited the courthouse to a thunderous roar of applause and cheers from a sea of supportive faces. I felt a renewed solidarity with my fellow Americans, my fellow New Yorkers, my fellow attorneys. Together we can fight any power that threatens to take what makes America great away from all of us. We are the People; we are the resistance.