Federal judge temporarily halts third Trump travel ban

Elias Hubbard
October 21, 2017

Although rooting his analysis in the president's statutory authority and the lack of individual findings with respect to the countries singled out, Watson also notes in his opinion that the plaintiffs challenged the ban in part because the original ban was an attempt to create a Muslim ban, and that Trump "has never renounced or repudiated his calls for a ban on Muslim immigration".

Rachel Weaver protests an earlier iteration of Trump's travel ban on March 16, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. In his ruling, Judge Watson stated President Trump was overstepping his authority and said there was insufficient evidence that allowing immigrants in from the countries set to be banned would be 'detrimental to the interests of the United States.' Judge Chuang stated in his decision that the ban violated existing immigration law and that President Trump was overstepping his authority due to the fact the order had "no specified end date and no requirement of renewal".

A federal judge in Maryland added a new legal blockade to President Trump's travel ban early Wednesday, ruling that the White House's third attempt at "extreme vetting" is still poisoned by the president's campaign-season "religious animus" toward Muslims. That order was put on hold by Judge Watson the day before it was supposed to go into effect; the Ninth Circuit agreed with Watson that the order was likely unconstitutional, and the Fourth Circuit, in a separate (narrower) case, sided against the administration as well. The Supreme Court partially reinstated the order, but said it couldn't be enforced against travelers who have a "bona fide" relationship with someone in the U.S. While Judge Chuang emphasizes that this does not by itself prove that the new travel ban is unconstitutional, it does undercut the government's efforts to prove that security considerations, not targeting Muslims, were the true objective of the order.

The Trump administration's most recent restrictions affect citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen - and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. Most importantly, it made the ban indefinite, starting Wednesday, October 17. But for now, score this as another temporary setback to the Trump agenda from a judge whose state Attorney General Jeff Sessions once wrote off as an "island in the Pacific".

Ultimately, though, the federal government probably does have a better chance of getting a victory on this version of the travel ban than it ever has before. But will it show its work?

Chuang's ruling said the administration had "not shown that national security can not be maintained without an unprecedented eight-country travel ban".

With each iteration of the travel ban, though, the Trump administration has worked harder to make its case for the latter. "Twenty-nine countries, for example, provided travel document exemplars for use by Department of Homeland Security officials to combat fraud".

It appears that the other federal judge taking up the ban right now - Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland - is accordingly more skeptical of the arguments that this is just a "Muslim ban" in sheep's clothing.

Administration officials were already working on their appeal of the Hawaii ruling. Administration lawyers have painstakingly argued in court that his goal is to enhance national security, not impose discrimination.

It may take hours for a higher court to intercede and allow the ban to go into effect - or it could deliberate the question over a matter of months, as happened with the last travel ban.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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