Two US federal judges find new Trump travel ban discriminatory
A US federal judge in Maryland has issued a temporary stay of President Donald Trump's revised travel ban, a day after a colleague in Hawaii handed down a similar order.
The initial ban, imposed on January 27, was likewise blocked by a federal judge, prompting the administration to craft a new executive order that included changes aimed at allowing the measure to pass muster in the courts.
The decision by Derrick K. Watson, who presides over a US district court in Honolulu, stopped the adjusted ban, while in Maryland, US District Judge Theodore D. Chuang says there are strong indications the national security reason is not the primary purpose for the travel ban.
The judges rejected arguments from the government that President Donald Trump's revised travel ban was substantially different from the first one, using the president's own words as evidence that the order discriminates against Muslims.
The rulings were victories for civil liberties groups and advocates for immigrants and refugees, who argued that a temporary ban on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries violated the First Amendment. The Trump administration argued that the ban was intended to protect the United States from terrorism.
The initial ban sparked chaos at US airports and widespread criticism around the world when it was signed in January. It was later blocked by a judge in Washington state, a ruling that was upheld by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
In Honolulu, US District Judge Derrick Watson criticised what he called the "illogic" of the government's arguments and and wrote, referring to a statement Trump issued as a candidate, "For instance, there is nothing 'veiled' about this press release: 'Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.'"
The White House had no immediate comment. The Justice Department said it would continue to defend the ban.
"The president's executive order falls squarely within his lawful authority in seeking to protect our nation's security," Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.
The case was argued in court by acting US Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, who said the ban "doesn't say anything about religion. It doesn't draw any religious distinctions.''
Speaking Wednesday evening at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, Trump called the ruling in Hawaii an example of "unprecedented judicial overreach" and said his administration would appeal it to the US Supreme Court. He also called his new travel ban a watered-down version of the first one, which he said he wished he could implement.
"We're going to win. We're going to keep our citizens safe,'' the president said. "The danger is clear. The law is clear. The need for my executive order is clear.''
While the Hawaii ruling temporarily blocks the travel ban, a temporary ban on refugees and a cap on the number of refugees who can enter the country, Chuang's ruling in Maryland applies only to the travel ban. The Maryland ruling took the form of a preliminary injunction, which will remain in effect indefinitely as the case is litigated. Chuang was also the first judge to stop the ban outside the 9th Circuit, which has a liberal reputation.
The hearings in Maryland and Hawaii were two of three held Wednesday in federal courts around the country. US District Judge James Robart in Seattle, who blocked the initial travel ban last month, did not immediately rule on a request from an immigrant-rights group to block the revised version.
In all, more than half a dozen states are trying to stop the ban.
Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C., Jennifer Sinco Kelleher in Honolulu, Gene Johnson in Seattle and Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Follow Ben Nuckols on Twitter at https://twitter.com/APBenNuckols.