Opposing the Trump travel ban
interview by Kevin Max | featured photo courtesy of Washington State Attorney General
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and his legal team led the successful opposition to the Trump Administration’s executive order that singled out seven predominantly Muslim countries in a wide-ranging travel ban, arguing the ban was unconstitutional and would lead to financial hardship for the state and its leading businesses. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Washington, effectively denying this executive order. We caught up with Ferguson just as the Trump Administration was signaling it would rewrite its travel ban and try to reinforce it.
After Trump was elected president, we began having internal conversations about what he would do based on his campaign promises. So we were not caught by surprise when he made the executive orders. I was angry but not surprised.
What would a fully enacted Trump travel ban mean for the state of Washington?
The impact on students and colleges and businesses. On that first weekend, my solicitor general Noah Purcell suggested we reach out to businesses to look at the impacts on them. I called the legal counsels for Expedia and Amazon on that Sunday and, to their great credit, they had declarations signed on Monday. We supplemented our complaint since then with something like ninety-seven additional companies.
What was your process like from touching down at Sea-Tac and the filing of the brief?
The executive order came out on Friday evening. I was in Florida for an attorneys general conference. I landed in SeaTac on Saturday. At that point, there were already people being turned back—even those who had visas. There was a press conference planned for that day at the airport. I had to skip it though as I needed to get home and get to work on this.
As we speak, the Trump Administration is working on repackaging this ban. What’s Washington’s plan? Honestly, it’s impossible to know what to expect. It goes without saying that we’ll be scrutinizing any new order the President signs.
You were an internationally rated chess player growing up. Does that have any bearing on your recent mission?
I think it’s fair to say that some of my motivation comes from being a chess player. I saw Soviets and people from the Eastern Bloc trying to defect after being punished for speaking out against their totalitarian regimes. My own chess coach in Seattle was a Bulgarian named Dr. Minev. I know he and his family left everything behind to defect to the United States.