SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Many Jewish groups have taken a stand against President Donald J. Trump’s immigration ban, but one, the Anti-Defamation League has taken it a step further, says Scarsdale attorney John Harris.
Harris is the primary author of an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief that was filed on behalf of the ADL with the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, in New York in early February.
In it, the ADL lays outs its reasons for supporting the attorneys general for the states of Washington and Minnesota in their challenge of Trump’s policies on immigrants and refugees.
Harris is a partner with the Manhattan law firm of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz. Trump, a real estate mogul and former reality TV star, maintains a home in Bedford.
The ADL’s CEO, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, said the brief urges the court to block enforcement of the order on the basis that it would almost certainly cause “irreparable harm to countless people.”
“When America has closed its doors and allowed its core values to be compromised, the country later looked back in shame,” Greenblatt said.
Harris said the brief strays a bit from the usual by citing history and social sciences rather than “leaning heavily on the law, and legal cases.”
The brief traces America’s history as a nation dedicated to ideals of equality, liberty, and justice, noting that throughout U.S. history, and often with respect to immigration, its ideals have been tested.
“Our country is at its best when it honors its commitments to its core values,” said Harris, who chairs the ADL’s Legal Affairs Committee. “This nation has been and should be a beacon of hope for refugees from war-torn countries and for victims of persecution. Many of these refugees have contributed immeasurably to the fabric of America.”
In instances where the country strayed from its “core principals,” it has had to “apologize to individuals and their descendants who had suffered, and posthumously to those who have tragically lost their lives as a result,” said Greenblatt, adding: “This case reminds us to fulfill the promise of learning from our mistakes.”
The ADL brief points to three specific examples of where America stumbled:
- The tragedy of the St. Louis, a vessel carrying Jews who were fleeing the Nazis. The refugees were turned away from America’s shores in 1939 and sent back to Europe, where many of them perished in the Holocaust;
- The “Chinese Exclusion,” when a series of laws led to the exclusion of thousands of Chinese laborers in the 1800s;
- The internment of Japanese during World War II, when approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans, including 70,000 citizens, were sent to internment camps in the United States in the wake of the Pearl Harbor bombing.
In each of these incidents, Harris said, “we wound up succumbing to fear and prejudice.”
Enforcing the executive orders banning immigrants from seven Muslim countries and refugees from war-torn places such as Syria means that the nation again risks sacrificing its “core values,” Greenblatt said.
It would be a sacrifice, he concluded, “that history has repeatedly proven has profound consequences both to the persons who suffer as a result and to the still-vibrant vision of the shining city on the hill.”
Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, PC prepared the brief on behalf of ADL and the law firm Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, LLP served as local counsel in the 9th Circuit.
Harris’ areas of expertise are litigation, securities fraud and white collar defense and legal ethics and professional responsibility.
He has spent more than 25 years representing clients in high-stakes civil matters and white collar criminal cases.
Harris chairs the Professional Responsibility Committee of the New York City Bar Association and is a former member of the New York City Bar’s Committee on Professional and Judicial Ethics. He also is a mediator for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice, and bigotry.
Trump, who owns the $19.5 million Seven Springs estate in Bedford, also owns Trump National Golf Club Hudson Valley in Stormville and Trump National Westchester in Briarcliff Manor. The Trump name also adorns Trump Tower At City Center in White Plains, Trump Plaza in New Rochelle, Trump Park Residences in Yorktown and the Donald J. Trump State Park on the Westchester/Putnam border.