Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen
Attorney General George Jepsen

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen joined his counterparts in 15 states Monday in filing an amicus brief in support of Washington state’s lawsuit challenging President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

The 22-page brief is meant to give the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit a sense of how the Trump administration set off waves of uncertainty and chaos that rippled across the U.S., disrupting trade and academia at a potential cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

“In Illinois alone, for example, 22.1% of entrepreneurs are foreign-born, and immigrant- and refugee-owned businesses employ more than 281,000 people,” the attorneys general wrote. “The Executive Order will create broad harm because it hampers the movement of people and ideas from the affected countries into our States.”

New York and every New England state but New Hampshire are among the 16 states supporting Washington and a similar challenge by Minnesota. The two states were best positioned to lead the legal challenge as border states with international airports that are major entry points into the United States, Jepsen said.

“The effects are more direct,” Jepsen said.

Several judges around the country issued orders temporarily blocking Trump’s order, but the focus has been on U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle. His order was the broadest, and the 9th Circuit appeals court in San Franciso refused Saturday to stay Robart’s restraining order.

The appeals court set a deadline of Monday afternoon for briefs, with expedited decision expected. The matter is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the amicus brief, the attorneys general asserted that Washington and Minnesota were injured by the immigration order and therefore have legal standing to challenge it in court.

“These injuries include harm to state colleges and universities, medical institutions, tax revenues; States’ interests in seeing the Establishment Clause upheld within our jurisdictions; and States’ interests in ensuring the health, welfare, and civil rights of our residents,” they wrote.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another. The attorneys general described the executive order as “an act of unconstitutional discrimination.”

“It is well recognized that States have standing to sue the federal government where a federal law or federal action with the force of law impairs their legitimate, sovereign interest in the continued enforceability of their own statutes,” they wrote.

Jepsen seemed skeptical last week about the ability of state attorneys general to fight the executive order, but he said Monday the states clearly can show damages.

The California State University System alone has more than 1,300 students from the affected countries with immigrant status and more than 250 students on student visas, and the states face the loss of direct and indirect revenue, the attorneys general said.

“The collective amounts at issue are immense, even just with respect to student tax dollars,” they said in the brief. “In New York, in 2015, there were almost 1,000 nationals from the affected countries studying on temporary visas, who collectively contributed $30.4 million to the State’s economy, including direct payments for tuition and fees and living expenses.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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