ACLU among more than 130 groups asking Congress for hearings on Trump immigration orders

Civil rights, religious groups sent letters to heads of oversight committees.

March 14, 2017, 11:10 AM

— -- The American Civil Liberties Union and more than 130 other civil rights and religious organizations have asked Congress to hold oversight hearings on Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration.

In recent letters to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, the groups urged congressional oversight of the three executive actions: a new travel ban scheduled to go into effect Thursday and two other orders on border security and Interior Department enforcement, signed Jan. 25, which the ACLU said in a statement are all "ripe with civil rights violations and riddled with constitutional red flags."

The House and Senate Judiciary committees, among other duties, provide oversight of federal law enforcement agencies. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, are their respective chairmen.

"Chairman Goodlatte supports President Trump's executive orders to secure the border, enforce immigration laws and protect our nation," a Republican committee aide said in a statement to ABC News. "As part of the committee's oversight responsibilities, the committee monitors the administration of our nation's immigration laws and also holds annual oversight hearings on the Department of Homeland Security and its component agencies. These oversight activities will continue during the Trump administration."

Grassley's office did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Joanne Lin, the ACLU's senior legislative counsel, said in a statement that Trump "unleashed his presidency with a series of executive orders on immigration that have devastated immigrant and refugee communities, provoked protests around the world and sparked several court battles. These orders are ripe with civil rights violations and riddled with constitutional red flags. The ACLU calls on Congress to conduct rigorous oversight over these executive orders."

In the letters, the groups said that if the committees fail to conduct oversight, they "will be giving free license to the Trump administration to pursue whatever policies it so chooses, even if those policies violate the Constitution, civil rights and civil liberties."

Trump's new travel ban, signed March 6, replaces one that was stayed by a federal appeals court in February. The new order puts a 90-day hold on issuing visas to people from six Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Sudan. It also suspends entry of any refugees to the United States for 120 days.

"This executive order responsibly provides a needed pause so we can carefully review how we screen people coming from these countries of concern," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in announcing the new action.

But the ACLU contends that new executive action on refugees and immigration is, like the first, a "Muslim ban."

The letters from the groups also say that the two orders on border security and immigration, together with new Department of Homeland Security enforcement policies, expand state and local immigration powers without proper civil rights safeguards, implicate laws like eminent domain without justification and have the potential to "shred due process."

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