On Thursday, May 25, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, delivered a judgment that has mostly upheld a lower court’s decision to suspend critical sections of President Donald Trump’s revised “Muslim ban” executive order. The order was drafted to restrict movement to and from the United States by citizens from six Muslim-majority countries.
According to the New York Times, the latest judgment stated that Trump’s travel ban discriminated on the basis of religion. It was a 10 to 3 decision — with the majority opinion having been written by Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory — in which the judges expressly stated that President Trump does not have absolute power to deny foreigners entry into the U.S.
“It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation.”
After an earlier version of Trump’s travel ban had failed to make it past the judicial branch of government, lawyers and administrators in the Trump administration drafted a new order that was supposed to better survive legal scrutiny. Courts have expressed concern over the potential for Muslims to be discriminated against by the ban, and have cited Trump’s 2016 anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric as examples of possible bias.
President Trump’s initial travel ban order was signed on January 27, merely a week after taking office. Various U.S. states and civil rights groups took the Muslim ban to court to test the legality of it. A lower court struck the order down, after which Trump filed an appeal. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, denied Trump’s request and upheld the lower court’s order.
According to Donald Trump, there is a necessity for the travel ban to come into effect while the administration takes the time to revise U.S. immigration policies. Trump also believes that the measure would prevent possible terror attacks on American soil.
Trump signed the revised travel ban in March, but it was again blocked by a federal judge in Maryland only hours before it was going to be implemented. In a ruling against the travel ban, the Maryland judge agreed with appellants that by discriminating against Muslims, the ban was in direct contravention of the Constitution.
The order would have banned citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days and it banned all refugees for 120 days. Notably, the new travel ban excluded Iraq and amended the ban on Syrian refugees to be implemented on a case-by-case basis. It also omitted any explicit references to a specific religion.
Even if Trump has won the most recent appeal, the travel ban would still not have been able to go into effect due to an additional ruling from a judge in Hawaii. On May 15, oral arguments in Trump’s appeal against the Hawaii court’s decision were heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Appearing before a panel of three judges, Neal Katyal, a lawyer for the state of Hawaii, argued that if the 9th Circuit Court strikes down the lower court’s block on the travel ban, there would be notable consequences.
“If you rule for us, you leave intact the president’s powers, including every decision every president has made in our lifetimes, and you preserve a status quo that has existed for decades. If you rule for him, you defer to the president in a way that history teaches us is very dangerous.”
At this stage it is not clear whether Trump will want to take the travel ban case to the Supreme Court of Appeal, and it is also not certain that the Court would even agree to hear the case. The court goes into summer recess soon, which means that the Trump administration would only be able to file the appeal in October. If, however, the Supreme Court decided to accept the case, it may be a year or more before a final ruling is delivered.
[Featured Image by Jack Taylor/Getty Images]