by Ngozi Esomonu, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The anti-Muslim travel ban, the 2018 budget proposal, and this month’s religious liberty executive order are just three of the many Trump Administration policies that spell discrimination for America’s most marginalized. Resisting these suppressive policies, are attorneys general from states all over the country from Eric Schneiderman in New York, to Maura Healey in Massachusetts, to Bob Ferguson in Washington State. Their primary tool of resistance is coalition-building with fellow state attorneys general. Once in a coalition, they utilize their joint political powers to pressure federal officials into supporting their position.
Beyond coalitions, however, state attorneys general use the threat of litigation as a guard against federal discrimination. And when their threats fail to deter, these state officials have not hesitated in pursuing litigation as a final step. With a Republican-dominated Congress and executive branch, attorneys general have emerged as the primary agents of resistance to the Trump administration’s damaging brand of conservatism.
Take for example, Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban. As a nation of immigrants, with a significant Muslim population, it was no secret that Executive Order 13769, (which suspended immigration from seven Muslim countries for three months and the Syrian refugee program indefinitely) would trample on individual rights. This, however, did not dissuade the president from issuing his order, and the Republican-led Congress, for the most part, remained silent on the issue. State attorneys general therefore became the leading voice of opposition.