A federal appeals court ruled that President Donald Trump’s travel ban is unconstitutional because it discriminates against people based on their religion.
In a 9-4 vote, the fourth US circuit court of appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said it examined statements made by Trump and his administration officials, as well as the ban itself, and concluded that it was “tainted with animus toward Islam”.
The court took note of the fact that Trump promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” while he was a candidate.
“On a fundamental level, the proclamation second-guesses our nation’s dedication to religious freedom and tolerance,” wrote Chief Circuit Judge Roger Gregory, in the majority opinion.
Trump called the latest order a “watered down, politically correct version” of the prior executive order when he issued a third version of his Muslim ban, after previous versions were scuttled by the courts.
This version blocks travel to the United States from six predominantly Muslim countries.
The third version of the ban that Trump has issued since taking office in January 2017 restricts travel from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.
Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela were new to the travel restrictions list, while Sudan was removed.
Trump defended the ban as a legitimate measure for protection of national security.
in a dissenting opinion, Judge Paul Niemeyer said that the courts should be deferential to the president on matters of national security.
Niemeyer criticized the majority, saying his colleagues applied “a novel legal rule that provides for the use of campaign-trail statements to recast later official acts of the president.”
The court upheld a ruling by a federal judge in Maryland who issued an injunction barring enforcement of the ban against people who have bona fide links inside the United States, such as documented business purposes or close family relationships.
“President Trump’s third illegal attempt to denigrate and discriminate against Muslims through an immigration ban has failed in court yet again. It’s no surprise,” ACLU lawyer Cecillia Wang said.
The American Civil Liberties Union and partner organizations are challenging Trump’s Muslim ban, and the case is expected to be in front of the US Supreme Court in April.
Throughout his presidential campaign, he consistently promised to block Muslim immigration and even announced a specific plan for achieving that goal: a nationality-based travel ban against people from predominantly Muslim countries. As promised, one week into his presidency, without consulting any federal agencies, he issued an unprecedentedban against people from seven overwhelmingly Muslim countries.
Chaos ensued at airports across the country. Americans showed up in droves to stand up for their families, their neighbors, and their colleagues, driving home the message that religious bigotry has no place in our country. The courts quickly blocked the ban.
Since then, Trump has done everything in his power to carry out his goal. After the first ban was blocked, he instructed the government agencies he had ignored the first time around to “compile additional factual support,” as his lawyers put it, to implement the same basic policy. Sure enough, after three weeks, the president signed a second ban, this time targeting six predominantly Muslim countries. Courts blocked that second version, ruling that the president does not gain the ability to suddenly ban millions of Muslims simply by getting his cabinet to sign off on it.
The courts did, however, allow the administration to implement the president’s order to conduct a study of existing visa vetting procedures, to determine what other restrictions to impose. To oversee that process, Trump installed a Department of Homeland Security official who, like the president himself, had explicitly advocated for a ban on Muslim immigrants and surveillance of mosques in the United States. To no one’s surprise, that process led to a recommendation that the president do what he had already done twice: ban people from predominantly Muslim countries, virtually the same ones named in the first two versions of the ban.
Trump signed the third ban in September. Unlike the first two versions, which were temporary, this one permanently bans people from six Muslim-majority countries. It also bans people from North Korea, which sends almost no one to the United States, and a handful of government officials from Venezuela.
Thankfully, the courts have again roundly rejected the president’s attempt to keep Muslims out of the country. In December, the Ninth Circuit court of appeals ruled that the ban violates U.S. immigration laws, which do not allow the president to remove entire countries from our immigration system. The Supreme Court will hear that case this spring.
Today’s decision is notable because it is the first time an appeals court has ruled that the permanent ban violates the Constitution. The Fourth Circuit rejected the government’s attempt to portray the third ban as completely separate from the first two. As the court explains, “a reasonable observer could hardly swallow the claim that the addition of North Korea and Venezuela to the twice-enjoined travel ban” changed the ban’s basic purpose. The court pointed to “undisputed evidence that the President of the United States has openly and often expressed his desire to ban those of Islamic faith from entering the United States.”
The evidence is indeed overwhelming. Late last year, Trump postedthree anti-Muslim videos intended to sow fear of Muslims immigrants and distrust between Christians and Muslims. And even while his agencies were studying their visa procedures, Trump made clear that he planned to impose the toughest possible ban, no matter what.
The ban, the court held, “strikes at the basic notion that the government may not act based on religious animosity.” It not only cuts against basic values of equality and freedom, it also does untold damage to thousands of American families, schools, hospitals, and businesses. As the decision says, the ban “inhibits the normal flow of information, ideas, resources, and talent” between other countries and our own. And it “denies the possibility of a complete, intact family to tens of thousands of Americans.” The human tragediesinflicted by the ban are impossible to overstate.
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