Revised Travel Ban Blocked by Multiple Federal Judges
After President Trump’s initial attempt at implementing a ban on travel to certain predominantly Muslim countries was rejected by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the administration vowed to try again. On March 6, Trump signed an executive order that made a second attempt at banning travel to the US by foreign nationals of six mostly-Muslim countries for 90 days, and barring all refugee resettlement for 120 days. The ban was slated to take effect on Thursday. However, the executive order was halted by a U.S. District Court judge in Hawaii late on Wednesday. A federal judge in Maryland issued a second ruling early on Thursday that prevented the travel ban from entering into force until the issue could be decided at trial.
As we discussed in a previous post, Trump’s initial attempt at preventing travel between the US and seven Muslim countries was declared unconstitutional by federal appeals judges in a California court. The revised executive order was found to violate the First Amendment for unfairly targeting a religious group. The Honolulu federal trial court judge, the Hon. Derrick Watson, considered the government’s arguments in support of the ban to rely on “illogic.” While the government had argued that the travel ban was needed to prevent terrorists from using legal immigration channels to infiltrate the US, Judge Watson ruled that they had failed to prove that the ban was needed to promote this end.
Judge Watson instead wrote that there was “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus” that surrounded the implementation of the ban, informing his decision that the order violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, barring discrimination on the basis of religion. Judge Watson cited as support a press release made by Trump during his campaign that called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” The fact that these statements were made during the campaign rather than after the election didn’t mean that the statements were erased from public memory, he wrote.
The second ruling, issued by a Maryland judge, made similar conclusions that the ban was motivated not by security concerns, but by religious concerns. Judge Theodore Chuang wrote, “In this highly unique case, the record provides strong indications that the national security purpose is not the primary purpose for the travel ban. While the travel ban bears no resemblance to any response to a national security risk in recent history, it bears a clear resemblance to the precise action that President Trump described as effectuating his Muslim ban.” Judge Chuang issued a preliminary injunction that only prevented the ban on visas to nationals of Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia from taking effect, while Judge Watson’s ruling also prevented the ban on refugees from taking effect.
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