Iraqis with US ties sue over Trump executive order banning Muslims

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By David Ingram and Mica Rosenberg

NEW YORK, Jan 28 (Reuters) - An initial volley in a potential barrage of legal challenges to President Donald Trump's new restrictions on immigration came on Saturday on behalf of two Iraqis with ties to U.S. security forces who were detained at New York's JFK Airport.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, the men are challenging the directive on constitutional grounds. The suit says their connections to the American forces made them targets in their home country and the pair had valid visas to enter the United States.

See images from JFK Airport:

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Scenes from US airports after Trump's travel restriction
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Scenes from US airports after Trump's travel restriction
Hossein Khoshbakhty wipes tears from his eyes while speaking during an interview about his Iranian brother, a U.S. Green Card holder effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Homa Homaei, a U.S. Citizen from Iran, is embraced by a lawyer working to help her Iranian family members effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Port Authority Police Department block an entrance as protesters gather outside Terminal 4 at JFK airport in opposition to U.S. president Donald Trump's proposed ban on immigration in Queens, New York City, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Attorney Talia Inlender, (C), works on paperwork with lawyers for family members of passengers effected by the travel ban outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Lawyers work on paperwork to help family members of passengers effected by the travel ban outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Demonstrators gather outside of John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) airport to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order blocking visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations in New York, U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Friday's executive order suspending refugee resettlements and barring entry to people from seven Middle East nations, is 'not a Muslim ban,' President Trump said. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lawyers work on paperwork for family members of passengers effected by the travel ban outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Sarah Saedian speaks with an attorney about her Iranian relatives as lawyers work to help family members of passengers effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Hossein Khoshbakhty speaks during an interview about his Iranian brother, a U.S. Green Card holder effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Hossein Khoshbakhty, (L), speaks with attorney Talia Inlender about his Iranian family members effected by the travel ban as Homa Homaei, (2nd L), looks on outside the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Sarah Saedian holds a bouquet of roses as she speaks with attorneys about her Iranian relatives working to help her family members effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Hossein Khoshbakhty speaks during an interview about his Iranian brother, a U.S. Green Card holder effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Attorney Talia Inlender, (R), speaks with Hossein Khoshbakhty, (L), and Homa Homaei, family members of Iranian passengers effected by the travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
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The lawsuit, which seeks to block Trump's order on behalf of a class of visa-holders and asylum-seekers, highlights some of the legal obstacles facing the new administration as it tries to carry out the directive.

The plight of one of the men, a former U.S. Army interpreter, is especially compelling, said David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, who is not involved in the suit.

"Here is a guy who was a translator who worked for the U.S. military for years, who himself was targeted by terrorists," he said. "It is clear that if he is sent back, he facing a direct threat to his life."

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Protests to Donald Trump's refugee ban
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Protests to Donald Trump's refugee ban
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 28: Immigration activists stage a protest against President Donald Trump's 90-days ban of entry on 7 Muslim-majority countries in JFK airport in New York, U.S.A on January 28, 2017. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Protestors rally during a demonstration against the Muslim immigration ban at John F. Kennedy International Airport on January 28, 2017 in New York City. President Trump signed the controversial executive order that halted refugees and residents from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. (Photo by Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 28: Activists stage a rally against President Donald Trump's 90-days ban of entry on 7 Muslim-majority countries in the Fourth terminal of JFK airport in New York, U.S.A on January 28, 2017. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Protestors rally during a demonstration against the Muslim immigration ban at John F. Kennedy International Airport on January 28, 2017 in New York City. President Trump signed the controversial executive order that halted refugees and residents from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. (Photo by Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 28: Immigration activists stage a protest against President Donald Trump's 90-days ban of entry on 7 Muslim-majority countries in JFK airport in New York, U.S.A on January 28, 2017. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 28: Protestors rally during a demonstration against the new immigration ban issued by President Donald Trump at John F. Kennedy International Airport on January 28, 2017 in New York City. President Trump signed the controversial executive order that halted refugees and residents from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Protesters gather at JFK International Airport against Donald Trump's executive order on January 28, 2017 in New York. US President Donald Trump has signed a sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough controls on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump boasted Saturday that his 'very strict' crackdown on Muslim immigration was working 'very nicely,' amid mounting resistance to the order which has been branded by many as blatantly discriminatory. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters gather at JFK International Airport against Donald Trump's executive order on January 28, 2017 in New York. US President Donald Trump has signed a sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough controls on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump boasted Saturday that his 'very strict' crackdown on Muslim immigration was working 'very nicely,' amid mounting resistance to the order which has been branded by many as blatantly discriminatory. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca addresses a crowd during an anti-Donald Trump immigration ban protest outside Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S. January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A crowd gathers during an anti-Donald Trump immigration ban protest outside Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S. January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
People gather during an anti-Donald Trump immigration ban protest outside Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S. January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Protesters gather at JFK International Airport's Terminal 4 to demonstrate against US President Donald Trump's executive order on January 28, 2017, in New York. Trump has signed a sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough controls on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters gather at JFK International Airport's Terminal 4 to demonstrate against President Donald Trump's executive order on January 28, 2017, in New York. Trump has signed a sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough controls on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters gather at JFK International Airport's Terminal 4 to demonstrate against US President Donald Trump's executive order on January 28, 2017, in New York. Trump has signed a sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough controls on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters gather at JFK International Airport's Terminal 4 to demonstrate against President Donald Trump's executive order on January 28, 2017, in New York. Trump has signed a sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough controls on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters gather at JFK International Airport's Terminal 4 to demonstrate against President Donald Trump's executive order on January 28, 2017, in New York. Trump has signed a sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough controls on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters gather at JFK International Airport's Terminal 4 to demonstrate against President Donald Trump's executive order on January 28, 2017, in New York. Trump has signed a sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough controls on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hang a banner from a multi-level car park during a protest against Donald Trump's travel ban outside Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
People participate in a protest against Donald Trump's travel ban outside Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 28: Protestors rally during a demonstration against the Muslim immigration ban at John F. Kennedy International Airport on January 28, 2017 in New York City. President Trump signed the controversial executive order that halted refugees and residents from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 28: Protestors rally during a demonstration against the Muslim immigration ban at John F. Kennedy International Airport on January 28, 2017 in New York City. President Trump signed the controversial executive order that halted refugees and residents from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 28: Hundreds of people gathered for a rally at the Chinatown Gate in Boston and marched to the State House in a demonstration against President Trump's new immigration order the day after it was issued, Jan. 28, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 28: Tori Furtado, from Boston, kneels down to write a sign that reads, 'Love has no borders,' in front of the Chinatown Gate, where hundreds gathered for a rally before marching to the State House in a demonstration against President Trump's new immigration order the day after it was issued, Jan. 28, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 28: Hundreds of people gathered for a rally at the Chinatown Gate in Boston and marched to the State House in a demonstration against President Trump's new immigration order the day after it was issued, Jan. 28, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 28: Hundreds of people marched down Kneeland Street in Boston after gathering for a rally at the Chinatown Gate in Boston before walking to the State House in a demonstration against President Trump's new immigration order the day after it was issued, Jan. 28, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 28: Nydia Velazquez seen as protesters gather in a demonstration against President Trumps executive order barring immigrants and refugees from certain predominantly Muslim countries outside JFK airport terminal 4 on January 28, 2017 in New York City. PHOTOGRAPH BY Joel Sheakoski / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Joel Sheakoski / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 28: Protesters gather in a demonstration against President Trumps executive order barring immigrants and refugees from certain predominantly Muslim countries outside JFK airport terminal 4 on January 28, 2017 in New York City. PHOTOGRAPH BY Joel Sheakoski / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Joel Sheakoski / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 28: Protesters gather in a demonstration against President Trumps executive order barring immigrants and refugees from certain predominantly Muslim countries outside JFK airport terminal 4 on January 28, 2017 in New York City. PHOTOGRAPH BY Joel Sheakoski / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Joel Sheakoski / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 28: Protesters gather in a demonstration against President Trumps executive order barring immigrants and refugees from certain predominantly Muslim countries outside JFK airport terminal 4 on January 28, 2017 in New York City. PHOTOGRAPH BY Joel Sheakoski / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Joel Sheakoski / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Protesters gather at JFK International Airport's Terminal 4 to demonstrate against President Donald Trump's executive order on January 28, 2017, in New York. Trump has signed a sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough controls on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters gather outside Terminal 4 at JFK airport in opposition to U.S. president Donald Trump's proposed ban on immigration in Queens, New York City, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Port Authority Police Department block an entrance as protesters gather outside Terminal 4 at JFK airport in opposition to U.S. president Donald Trump's proposed ban on immigration in Queens, New York City, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Protesters gather outside Terminal 4 at JFK airport in opposition to U.S. president Donald Trump's proposed ban on immigration in Queens, New York City, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 28: Immigration activists stage a protest against President Donald Trump's 90-days ban of entry on 7 Muslim-majority countries in JFK airport in New York, U.S.A on January 28, 2017. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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That man, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, was released later on Saturday and told a crowd of reporters outside John F. Kennedy International Airport that he did not have ill feelings about his detention.

"America is the greatest nation, the greatest people in the world," he said.

Darweesh, 53, worked for the U.S. Army and for a U.S. contractor in Iraq from 2003 to 2013 as an interpreter and engineer, the lawsuit said.

The second plaintiff, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, 33, was still being held. He is the husband of an Iraqi woman who worked for a U.S. contractor in Iraq, and she already lives in Houston, the suit said.

Ten other travelers not named in the suit were being detained at JFK Airport on Saturday afternoon, U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, told reporters.

Trump, a Republican, on Friday signed a sweeping executive order that put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Iraq and six other Muslim-majority countries. The order would help protect Americans from terrorist attacks, the president said.

Representatives for the White House could not immediately be reached for comment on Saturday.

Supporters of the order say the president has wide authority to limit the entry of foreign nationals from specific countries when it is in the national interest.

"If we decided to give green cards only to redheads who can play the spoons, we can do that," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies.

The lawsuit on behalf of the Iraqis challenges Trump's order on several grounds. It says the order violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of due process by taking away their ability to apply for asylum, and violates the guarantee of equal protection by discriminating against them on the basis of their country of origin without sufficient justification.

It also says the order violates procedural requirements of federal rulemaking.

In a separate lawsuit, a California-based private attorney on Saturday filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the order, bringing the legal action against Trump on behalf of the "people of the United States" and California, according to a copy of the action posted to news website Politico.com.

The lawsuit accused Trump of violating the U.S. Constitution by infringing on the power of lawmakers in Congress to enact laws on immigration.

Andrew Shalaby, the attorney who brought the lawsuit, acknowledged to Politico he may need to find individual plaintiffs for the suit if a judge rules that is necessary. Shalaby could not be reached for further comment.

Another legal challenge is expected on Monday, when the Council on American-Islamic Relations has said it plans to announce a lawsuit arguing that the order targets Muslims and violates the U.S. guarantee of religious freedom.

Trump's order does not mention specific religions, but in an interview on Friday with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump said he was acting to help Christians in Syria who were "horribly treated."

Comments like that could come back to haunt the president in litigation over his order, said Hiroshi Motomura, an immigration expert at UCLA School of Law.

"There were comments during the campaign that focused very much on religion as the target," Motomura said. "If the record showed that the origins of a particular measure were based on targeting a particular group, that could be challenged in court."

Eric Rothschild, senior litigation counsel at religious liberties group Americans United For Separation of Church and State, said Trump has created a perverse situation for asylum-seekers.

"People will be quizzed on their faith in order to gain access to the country, maybe motivating them to deny their faith," he said. (Reporting by David Ingram and Mica Rosenberg; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Jonathan Allen and Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Franklin Paul and Nick Zieminski)


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