Second federal judge also blocks travel ban
Ruling expresses doubt ban’s main purpose is security.
Md. jurist’s national order halts part of ban that bars travelers from six majority-Muslim nations.
A federal district judge in Maryland on Thursday blocked a key part of President Donald Trump’s retooled executive order that suspended travel from six majority-Muslim countries.
U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang said the court order, which blocks the provision of Trump’s travel ban that called for a halt to immigration from the six countries, applies nationally. The court order does not include a ruling on other parts of the travel ban.
The judge’s ruling followed a wider order issued Wednesday in a Hawaii federal court, where a judge also blocked the suspension of immigration from the countries as well as the president’s attempt to pause and cap refugee resettlement.
The two rulings effectively halted the most significant parts of the revised travel order and set the stage for fights in higher courts at opposite ends of the nation and the political spectrum: the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which tends to issue liberal rulings, and the generally conservative 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
The rulings are not permanent but are meant to stop the travel ban while further court proceedings determine its constitutionality.
In his 43-page opinion in the Maryland case, Chuang wrote that it was “likely” that Trump’s ban violated the Constitution by discriminating against Muslims.
Arguing the case Wednesday, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center said the new order — which was supposed to go into effect nationwide Thursday — would prevent family reunification and discriminate on the basis of religion.
Chuang, who was nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama, wrote that, contrary to the administration’s contentions, there were “strong indications that the national security purpose is not the primary purpose for the travel ban.”
The judge heavily quoted from Trump’s statements on the campaign trial — where he promised to suspend Muslim immigration — and after his election win, as well as statements by the Trump campaign and White House associates on the travel ban’s purpose.
The decisions in Maryland and Hawaii marked back-to-back blows for the Trump administration, which had already suffered a major defeat last month when a Seattle judge issued a national halt to the first version of the travel ban.
Trump had said his revised order, issued March 6, would be “tailored” to survive legal challenges in “bad” courts. Yet, speaking at a Nashville, Tenn., rally after the Hawaii decision, Trump described the new order as a “watereddown” version of the prior one and said he thought “we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way.”
At the rally, Trump also vowed to “take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court.”
The original order, signed Jan. 27, spurred tens of thousands of visa cancellations, chaos at U.S. international airports and dozens of lawsuits. It also sought to stop refugee resettlement from all countries for 120 days — and from Syria indefinitely — and banned citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days while the government reviewed its vetting procedures.
A federal judge in Seattle halted that order in February after hearing arguments that it was discriminatory against Muslims and could harm Washington state’s universities, businesses and residents. His decision was upheld by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit court.
The new order tried to address court concerns by removing a preference for refugees who are religious minorities and giving exemptions from the ban to green card holders and those who already have valid visas. It also removed Iraq from the list of countries whose nationals could not travel to the U.S.
Amnesty International activists hold banners in London on Thursday against the planned introduction of the revised travel ban. A second federal judge blocked part of the new version of the order Thursday.