- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

SEATTLE (AP) - President Donald Trump’s immigration order is blocking efforts by legal residents to reunite with their children who are trapped in war-torn countries, according to a federal class-action lawsuit filed late Monday by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project on behalf of the heartbroken parents.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle claimed Trump’s order prohibiting people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. is unconstitutional. It asked for a judge to intervene and stop the application of the part of the order that suspends visas to citizens of those seven countries.

“The Constitution and immigration laws plainly prohibit the government from denying visas or suspending processing based on this type of discrimination,” said Matt Adams, the group’s legal director. “President Trump is tearing families apart, not to protect our country, but to score points with his anti-immigrant supporters.”

The Trump administration has defended the order, saying more restrictions are needed to protect the U.S. from future terrorist attacks.

One woman named in the lawsuit has a 6-year-old son in Somalia, another has a 16-year-old son stranded in Syria and a third has a 12-year-old daughter who is a citizen of Yemen, but living in Dijibouti, in East Africa. All fear for their children’s safety, the lawsuit said.

Juweiya Abdiaziz Ali, one of the plaintiffs, is a U.S. citizen living in Seattle who started the process last August of bringing her son from Somalia. But Trump’s order has made her worried that her son’s visa process will be indefinitely suspended, she said.

Reema Dahman, another plaintiff, is a permanent U.S. resident who also lives in Seattle. She said she was in the final stages of the process to secure her 16-year-old son’s visa, waiting for an immigrant visa interview to be scheduled, when Trump’s order ended that plan.

“I’m heartbroken,” Dahman said. “Every day I am filled with anguish at what might become of my son, and this order just crushed my hopes that I could get him out of harm’s way anytime soon.”

Like thousands of others, those named in the lawsuit pursued the immigrant visa process that includes hundreds of dollars in filing fees, security screenings, medical examinations and interviews, Adams said. The executive order shattered their lives and dimmed their prospects for being reunified with their children, he said.

“The worst part about this is that families are now suffering indefinite separation - mothers and fathers are separated from their children, wives separated from husbands - based not upon any specific security concern, but instead, because the President has categorically excluded people based on their national origin and religion,” Adams said.

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Follow Martha Bellisle at https://twitter.com/marthabellisle

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