4th Circuit Appeals Court blocks travel ban

A federal appeals court in Virginia upheld a lower court order May 25 blocking President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting entry to the U.S. from six predominantly Muslim countries.

A 13-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled by a 10-3 vote that the ban is unconstitutional because it targets Muslims on the basis of their religious beliefs.

The court majority quoted extensively from statements made by Trump before and after being elected in which he promised to prevent Muslim immigration.

“We cannot shut our eyes to such evidence when it stares us in the face,” the court majority said.

The court said the government’s argument that the ban was justified by national security concerns “appears to be a post hoc, secondary justification for an executive action rooted in religious animus and intended to bar Muslims from this country.”

The 4th Circuit court is one of two federal appeals courts reviewing lower court preliminary injunctions that blocked implementation of Trump’s March 6 executive order. The other court is the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel of that court heard arguments on March 15 on the U.S. Department of Justice’s appeal of a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge in Hawai‘i.

The 9th Circuit panel has not yet ruled. Much of the hearing on March 15 centered on how much weight the court should give to Trump’s comments.

Trump’s March 6 executive order was a narrowed-down version of an earlier order that had been blocked by a federal judge in Seattle and then by the 9th Circuit.

The revised order applied to visitors from six rather than seven countries and did not apply to legal permanent residents and to visitors who already have visas. Trump’s directive would bar visitors from the six countries for three months and refugees from all countries for four months.

The case before the 4th Circuit was filed by six individuals and three organizations. The case being considered by the 9th Circuit was filed by the state of Hawai‘i.

The six countries named in the ban are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.    

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