Appeals court deals blow to Trump administration travel ban

26 May, 2017, 09:56 | Author: Gregory Stephens
  • US appeals court says Trump’s travel ban motivated by 'religious intolerance'

At issue was the intent behind the measure - whether or not it deliberately singled out Muslims by targeting nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Attorney-General Jeff Sessions said it is the president's "duty to protect our communities from terrorism" and vowed to bring a review of the latest ruling to the US Supreme Court.

The judges "remain unconvinced" that the travel ban had "more to do with national security than it does with effectuating the President's promised Muslim ban".

"The president is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States", Sessions said.

During his presidential campaign, Trump had often spoke of wanting a total ban on Muslims entering the country.

"These clearly are very risky times and we need every available tool at our disposal to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S. and committing acts of bloodshed and violence", said Michael Short, a White House spokesman. Judge Dennis Shedd added that the "real losers in this case are the millions of individual Americans whose security is threatened on a daily basis by those who seek to do us harm".

The new version made it clear the 90-day ban covering those six countries doesn't apply to those who already have valid visas.

Trump's administration argued the court should not look beyond the text of the executive order, which doesn't mention religion.


In an opinion that concurred with the majority on Thursday, Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote that the administration did nothing to distance itself from the first order, describing the revised ban as "the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing". Judges voting to uphold the freeze were appointed by Democratic presidents, although one was reappointed by a Republican.

The White House has said the temporary ban is needed to improve vetting procedures to ensure terrorists do not enter the United States as travelers or refugees.

A federal appeals court upheld Thursday a ruling blocking President Donald Trump's travel ban against six Muslim-majority countries. In Thursday's decision, the chief judge writes that the travel ban "drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination".

But Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory wrote that the government's "asserted national security interest. appears to be a post hoc, secondary justification for an executive action rooted in religious animus and meant to bar Muslims from this country".

One of the legal battles over the travel ban, whether this case or a similar lawsuit before another court, is expected to ultimately land before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Trump administration's attorneys had argued before the Virginia-based 4th Circuit that comments Trump made while he was campaigning should not be considered when weighing his executive order. "We decline to do so, not only because it is the particular province of the judicial branch to say what the law is, but also because we would do a disservice to our constitutional structure were we to let its mere invocation silence the call for meaningful judicial review". "The Constitution's prohibition on actions disfavoring or condemning any religion is a fundamental protection for all of us, and we can all be glad that the court today rejected the government's request to set that principle aside", Jadwat said. This, Gregory said, proved that " any national security justification for [the executive order] was "secondary to its primary religious objective".

The president put out a revamped executive order on the issue after his first one was struck down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington.

The first travel ban issued January 27 was aimed at seven countries and triggered chaos and protests across the country as travelers were stopped from boarding worldwide flights and detained at airports for hours. The travel ban's "text does little to bolster any national security rationale: the only examples it provides of immigrants born overseas and convicted of terrorism-related crimes in the United States include two Iraqis", even though Iraq is no longer a designated country under the ban, and "a Somalian refugee who entered the United States as a child and was radicalized here as an adult", Gregory wrote.

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