FILE - In this March 21, 2016, file photo, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks during a news conference in New York. Schneiderman says his colleagues and other lawyers are being moved to action because they believe Trump "does not have respect for the rule of law." (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney-general © AP

Massachusetts and New York are the latest states to join federal lawsuits challenging President Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily bans immigrants from seven countries, adding legal heft to the litigation.

The announcements by the two state attorneys-general on Tuesday follow action by Washington state’s top law enforcement official who on Monday filed a lawsuit alleging the executive order is unconstitutional.

Maura Healey, the attorney-general of Massachusetts, said on Tuesday that she would join a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts on behalf of two associate professors at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. They were detained at Logan airport when the executive order went into effect over the weekend.

The lawsuit alleges the order is unconstitutional and discriminates against people based on their country of origin and religion. Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, and presidents of several of its universities and business organisations, have publicly supported the lawsuit.

Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney-general, said the state is intervening in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and other civil rights groups over the weekend in Brooklyn federal court on behalf of Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi translator, and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, an Iraqi accountant, who were detained on Saturday as they tried to enter the US on valid visas.

On Saturday night US district judge Ann Donnelly issued a temporary order blocking the US government from denying entry to refugees and other valid visa holders.

Other courts from Los Angeles to Virginia have issued similar decisions to halt the immigration order, which bans travel for 90 days from citizens of Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Mr Trump’s order has sown chaos at American airports, spurred protests, and led to his firing of Sally Yates, the acting US attorney-general from the Obama administration, who issued an edict to prosecutors across the country to not enforce the order in court.

It has trapped professors, students and employees, who left the US temporarily, in legal limbo. Universities have been widely affected. The University of Michigan said it would not release the immigration status of its students. Two Harvard University-bound sisters were stopped at London’s Heathrow airport.

Silicon Valley and other companies who recruit from around the globe have also come out against the order. Amazon, which is headquartered in Washington state, said it was supporting the state lawsuit and weighing legal action of its own.

The three state attorneys-general who are filing lawsuits are among a group of 15 who condemned the order as “unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful”.

Mr Schneiderman added: “I will continue to do everything in my power to not just fight this executive order, but to protect the families caught in the chaos sown by President Trump’s hasty and irresponsible implementation.”

His office has also asked the US Department of Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection to provide a list of anyone detained and those in need of legal representation.

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