Judge blocks Trump's sec­ond try at travel ban

Pres­i­dent calls rul­ing an ‘un­prece­dented ju­di­cial over­reach.’

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Alexan­der Burns

A fed­eral judge GREENBELT, MD. — in Hawaii is­sued a na­tion­wide or­der Wed­nes­day evening block­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ban on travel from parts of the Mus­lim world, deal­ing a po­lit­i­cal blow to the White House and sig­nal­ing that pro­po­nents of the ban face a long and risky le­gal bat­tle ahead.

Trump, in re­sponse, called the rul­ing an “un­prece­dented ju­di­cial over­reach.”

The rul­ing was the sec­ond frus­trat­ing de­feat for Trump’s travel ban, af­ter a fed­eral court in Seat- tle halted an ear­lier ver­sion of the ex­ec­u­tive or­der last month. Trump re­sponded to that set­back with fury, lash­ing out at the ju­di­ciary be­fore ul­ti­mately aban­don­ing the or­der.

He is­sued a new and nar­rower travel ban on March 6, with the aim of pre-empt­ing new law­suits by aban­don­ing some of the most con­tentious el­e­ments of the first ver­sion.

But Demo­cratic states and non­profit groups that work with im­mi­grants and refugees raced into court to at­tack the up­dated or­der, al­leg­ing that it was a thinly veiled ver­sion of the ban on Mus­lim mi­gra-

tion that he had pledged to en­act last year, as a presidential can­di­date.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion lawyers ar­gued in mul­ti­ple courts on Wed­nes­day that the pres­i­dent was merely ex­er­cis­ing his na­tional se­cu­rity pow­ers and that no el­e­ment of the ex­ec­u­tive or­der, as writ­ten, could be con­strued as a re­li­gious test for trav­el­ers.

But in the law­suit brought by Hawaii’s at­tor­ney gen­eral, Doug Chin, Judge Der­rick K. Wat­son ap­peared skep­ti­cal of the govern­ment’s claim that past com­ments by Trump and his al­lies had no bear­ing on the case.

“Are you say­ing we close our eyes to the se­quence of state­ments be­fore this?” Wat­son asked in a hear­ing Wed­nes­day be­fore he ruled against the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Trump’s orig­i­nal ban, re­leased Jan. 27, un­leashed scenes of chaos at U.S. air­ports and spurred mass protests. Is­sued abruptly on a Fri­day af­ter­noon, it tem­po­rar­ily barred travel from seven ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim na­tions, mak­ing no ex­plicit dis­tinc­tion between cit­i­zens of those coun­tries who al­ready had green cards or visas and those who did not.

It also sug­gested that Chris­tian refugees from those coun­tries would be given pref­er­ence in the fu­ture, opening it up to ac­cu­sa­tions that it un­law­fully tar­geted Mus­lims for dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Af­ter a fed­eral court in Seat­tle is­sued a broad in­junc­tion against the pol­icy, Trump re­moved ma­jor pro­vi­sions and reis­sued the or­der. The new ver­sion ex­empted key groups, like green card and visa hold­ers, and dropped the sec­tion that would have given Chris­tians spe­cial treat­ment.

Trump also re­moved Iraq from the list of coun­tries cov­ered by the ban af­ter the Pen­tagon ex­pressed worry that it would dam­age the United States’ re­la­tion­ship with the Iraqi govern­ment in the fight against the Is­lamic State.

Yet those con­ces­sions did not pla­cate crit­ics of the ban, who ar­gue that it still would im­pose a de facto re­li­gious test on trav­el­ers from big parts of the Mid­dle East.

The law­suits have also claimed that the or­der dis­rupts the func­tions of com­pa­nies, char­i­ties, pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties and hos­pi­tals that have deep re­la­tion­ships over­seas. In the Hawaii case, nearly five dozen tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Airbnb, Drop­box, Lyft and Tri­pAd­vi­sor, joined in a brief ob­ject­ing to the travel ban.

The new ex­ec­u­tive or­der pre­serves ma­jor com­po­nents of the orig­i­nal. It would halt, with few ex­cep­tions, the grant­ing of new visas and green cards to peo­ple from six ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim coun­tries — Iran, Libya, So­ma­lia, Su­dan, Syria and Ye­men — for at least 90 days. It also would stop all refugees from en­ter­ing for 120 days and limit refugee ad­mis­sions to 50,000 peo­ple in the cur­rent fis­cal year. For­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had set in mo­tion plans to ad­mit more than twice that num­ber.

Trump has said the pause is needed to re-eval­u­ate screen­ing pro­ce­dures for im­mi­grants from the six coun­tries be­fore al­low­ing travel to re­sume.

“Each of these coun­tries is a state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism, has been sig­nif­i­cantly com­pro­mised by ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions, or con­tains ac­tive con­flict zones,” he wrote in the or­der, signed March 6.

Jef­frey Wall, a lawyer in the U.S. Solic­i­tor Gen­eral’s of­fice, said in the Mary­land court­room Wed­nes­day that the or­der was based on na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns raised by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in its move to­ward stricter screen­ing of trav­el­ers from the six coun­tries.

“What the or­der does is a step be­yond what the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion did, but it’s on the same ba­sis,” Wall said.

The judge’s or­der in Hawaii was not a rul­ing on the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Trump’s ban, and the ad­min­is­tra­tion has con­sis­tently ex­pressed con­fi­dence that courts will ul­ti­mately af­firm Trump’s power to is­sue the re­stric­tions.

But the le­gal de­bate is likely to be a pro­tracted and un­usu­ally per­sonal fight for the ad­min­is­tra­tion, touch­ing Trump and a num­ber of his key aides di­rectly and rais­ing the prospect that their pub­lic com­ments and pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions will be scru­ti­nized ex­ten­sively.

Mul­ti­ple law­suits chal­leng­ing the travel ban have ex­ten­sively cited Trump’s com­ments dur­ing the presidential cam­paign. He first pro­posed to bar all Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the United States, and then of­fered an al­ter­na­tive plan to ban travel from a num­ber of Mus­lim coun­tries, which he de­scribed as a po­lit­i­cally ac­cept­able way of achiev­ing the same goal.

Bob Fer­gu­son, the Wash­ing­ton at­tor­ney gen­eral, has in­di­cated that in an ex­tended le­gal fight, his of­fice could seek de­po­si­tions from ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials and re­quest doc­u­ments that would ex­pose the full process by which Trump aides crafted the ban.

Trump has re­acted with fury to un­fa­vor­able court rul­ing, sav­aging the ju­di­ciary af­ter the court in Seat­tle blocked ma­jor parts of his first travel or­der and sin­gling out the judge for de­ri­sion on Twit­ter.

The pres­i­dent’s com­ments were so bit­ing that even his nom­i­nee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gor­such, told sen­a­tors that at­tacks on the ju­di­ciary were “de­mor­al­iz­ing.”

A White House spokesman in­sisted Gor­such had not been crit­i­ciz­ing Trump specif­i­cally.

If Trump lashes out again at the ju­di­ciary, it could set the stage in an un­com­fort­able way for Gor­such’s con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings, which be­gin next week.

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