Appeals court sets hearing in travel ban case

Posted March 26, 2017

Two federal judges - one in Maryland and one in Hawaii - have blocked implementation of the core provisions of the travel ban, and it remains on hold nationwide.

The judge, a George W. Bush appointee, said his job is simply to determine whether the order "falls within the bounds of the President's statutory authority or whether the President has exercised that authority in violation of constitutional restraints".

The most significant part of Trenga's ruling is his finding that the revised order is sufficiently different from the original travel ban to reduce "the probative value" of past statements by Trump and his aides that the plaintiffs used to establish "discriminatory intent".

Earlier this month, Trump's revised order - created to stand up to legal scrutiny - was blocked by courts in Maryland and Hawaii on the grounds that it seeks the same type of discriminatory justification as the first order.

The Trump administration argued that the revised executive order was meant to protect the United States from terrorism. The new, revised order trims the number of targeted countries to six, removing Iraq from the list. "And while the President and his advisors have continued to make statements following the issuance of EO-1 that have characterized or anticipated the nature of EO-2, the Court can not conclude for the purposes of the Motion that these statements, together with the President's past statements, have effectively disqualified him from exercising his lawful presidential authority". The first version of the travel ban was the subject of negative rulings in federal court last month, most recently in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington.

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The UK has just announced that it is adopting the same ban on laptops and other electronic devices, on flights arriving from the same airports, as the USA announced just this morning. Trump's nominee for the vacant seat on the court, Neil Gorsuch, had hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, during which he was asked whether he thought the travel ban constituted a religious test.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has already appealed the Maryland decision, asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the district court's injunction against the 90-day travel ban.

But his 32-page decision goes far beyond that technical question, giving a major victory to the Trump administration and its authority to issue the order, which would temporarily ban immigration from six Muslim-majority countries and suspend the USA refugee program.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores praised Trenga's decision in a statement on Friday.

The Justice Department issued a statement praising the ruling. The White House has appealed the injunction in Maryland.