Judges raise thorny questions about revised Trump travel ban

What's at stake as Trump gets to'see you in court in two major travel ban casesMore

What's at stake as Trump gets to'see you in court in two major travel ban casesMore

US District Court Judge Theodore Chuang said in March, despite the Trump administration's comments about the order not being a Muslim ban, but rather a travel ban, he found "the history of public statements continues to provide a convincing case that the objective of the second executive order remains the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban".

The court is considering the Trump administration's appeal of a ruling by a federal judge in Maryland on March 15 that put a nationwide preliminary injunction on one section of the president's revised travel ban.

JUDGE ROBERT KING, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: The president repudiated his statements in campaign and post-election about the Muslim ban.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, representing the challengers, said in court papers that Trump's comments before the election can not be ignored.

The Supreme Court could still wind up reviewing the case. Such hearings are extremely rare at the initial stages of proceedings and underline the significance of the case.

A federal judge in Maryland who blocked the travel ban in March cited Trump's comments as evidence that the executive order is a realization of his repeated promise to bar Muslims from entering the country.

Mr Trump repeatedly promised to institute a ban on Muslim immigration during his campaign, even saying he would consider shutting down mosques and establishing a Muslim registry.

"It is not a Muslim ban", he said.

Wilkinson's daughter is married to Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall, who's arguing on behalf of President Trump.

He said the administration chose the countries subject to the ban because the present a terrorism risk to the United States.

Trump's lawyer argues that the countries were chosen due to their ties to terrorism and that they only represented a small fraction of Muslim-majority nations. The thirteen-judge panel featured 10 Democratic appointees and three Republican appointees. "The president clarified over time that what he was talking about were countries and territories that have known links to groups like ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda". The ACLU's Omar Jadwat said, we need to be able to look for an improper motive here, one that would violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution that says you can't favor one religion over another. Judge Niemeyer asked. "How about his speeches to businessmen 20 years ago?"

The first decree - which prompted mass protests and sowed chaos at U.S. airports - was blocked on grounds it violated the ban on religious discrimination, a ruling upheld on appeal.

After a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused in February to let the travel ban take effect, the administration tweaked the order and issued a new one.

The revised travel ban, to be in place for 90 days, no longer applied to those who already hold valid visa. The new executive order also removed language from the earlier ban that said religious minorities in the Muslin-majority countries would be given priority entry into the country.

While the order was not itself a Muslim ban, and only restricted travel from countries flagged by the Obama administration - including Libya, Iraq, Syria and Somalia - opponents noted the countries were majority-Muslim and invoked Trump campaign statements to bolster their case. Central to both of these cases are public remarks made by Trump and members of his administration during the 2016 election and after his victory, which lawyers argue demonstrate the travel ban is created to explicitly target Muslims and therefore violates the religious protection provisions of the USA constitution. "No culture, or class or religion should be discriminated against". It was blocked by federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii.

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