- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2017

A federal judge in Maryland on Thursday temporarily blocked part of President Trump’s revised executive order on immigration and refugees, a day after a federal judge in Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order halting enforcement of the entire order.

U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang ruled that the proposed 90-day ban on travel to the United States by nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen was a likely violation of the Constitution and ordered a temporarily halt of enforcement of that portion of the order. He declined to block other parts of the order, including a 120-day pause of all refugee resettlement and a reduction in the number of refugees allowed in the United States this year.

Despite some changes from the original order, “the history of public statements continues to provide a convincing case that the purpose of the Second Executive Order remains the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban,” Judge Chuang wrote in his 43-page order issued Thursday morning.

“When President Trump discussed his planned Muslim ban, he described not the preference religious minorities, but the plan to ban the entry of nationals from certain dangerous countries as a means to carry out the Muslim ban,” Judge Chuang wrote. “These statements thus continue to explain the religious purpose behind the travel ban in the Second Executive Order.”

The order came hours after a federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order blocking the entire revised order from taking effect.

The second order, which was set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, had removed Iraq from the list of affected countries, among other changes. The revised version still retained a 120-day halt of all refugee resettlement, though it removed the original order’s permanent ban on refugees from Syria and exemptions for religious minorities, namely Christians. It also lowered the number of refugees accepted by the U.S. this year from 110,000 people to 50,000.

Plaintiffs in the Maryland case included refugee advocacy groups, arguing on behalf of relatives of nationals of the affected countries in the process of asking for permission to get into the U.S.

Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case on behalf of the International Refugee Assistance Project, said the Maryland ruling was “another strong judicial condemnation of President Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban.”

“If, as promised, he continues to try to defend this indefensible order in the courts — or goes back to the first iteration of the ban — he will just keep losing,” Mr. Jadwat said.

The original order had already been halted by the courts, and the Trump administration had rewritten portions of the second order to allay legal concerns.

Mr. Trump, commenting Wednesday on the Hawaii ruling, said the decision “makes us look weak.”

“Which, by the way, we no longer are — believe me,” he said at an event in Tennessee on Wednesday.

“This is a watered-down version of the first one. This is a watered down version,” Mr. Trump said, saying he’d take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

“And let me tell you something, I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I [wanted] to do in the first place,” he said.

During arguments in the Maryland case Wednesday, Judge Chuang noted that the courts generally defer to the federal government on matters of national security, and asked whether he needed “to conclude that the national security purpose is a sham and false?”

In response, Mr. Jadwat said the government had put out misleading and contradictory information about whether banning travel from six specific countries would make the nation safer.

When asked whether the president would be able to ever restrict travel on national security grounds without facing the same argument from challenges, Mr. Jadwat said the government should offer specific evidence of a credible threat or attack associated with individuals inside a specific country to account for a travel restriction. He argued that the president’s plan to stop the flow of refugees has a disproportionate affect on Muslims because they are 50 percent of the refugees coming into the United States.

Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall defended the Trump’s administration’s plan, saying the countries from which visa applications would be restricted were already identified by the Obama administration to be removed from the visa waiver program. He said the Trump administration took those groups “and said we are making different judgement on the amount of risk we are willing to tolerate.”

Justice Department attorneys had tried to argue there was a distinction between how Mr. Trump talked about the travel restriction plan both before and after he was sworn into office. Mr. Wall noted that the “Muslim ban” statements highlighted by the ACLU were made before Mr. Trump was sworn into office and before he discussed legal aspects of the executive order with Cabinet members.

It “would be a harder case” if Mr. Trump had made those same statements as the president of the United States, Mr. Wall said.

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