Federal judges in Maryland, Hawaii put freeze on Trump's revised travel ban

The Justice Department petitioned a Hawaii judge who ruled against President Donald Trump's executive order banning travel from six predominantly Muslim countries to rein in his injunction to allow some parts of the order to be implemented.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed a long-awaited revised travel order temporarily blocking travel for immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries.

A federal judge on Wednesday stopped President Trump's second attempt to temporarily ban visa-holders from several majority-Muslim countries - and almost all refugees - from entering the United States, hours before it was supposed to take effect. Judge Theodore D Chuang ruled that the objective of Trump's first and second travel ban orders is to discriminate against Muslims for political reasons.

The first version of the ban, temporarily suspending the USA refugee program and barring entry into the US from residents of seven majority-Muslim countries, was quickly blocked by a federal judge in Washington state.

It aims to close USA borders to nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and all refugees for at least 120 days.

The Department of Justice filed papers notifying the court of an appeal on behalf of the Trump administration in the southern division of the Maryland District court.

Despite the White House's denials that the president's travel restrictions don't constitute a Muslim ban, the judiciary isn't buying it, least of whom Judge Watson, who called the president's plan is "fundamentally flawed".

After the original travel ban was halted by the courts, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller downplayed the differences between the first and second executive orders, saying the revised version would be "responsive" to court challenges, but described the forthcoming changes as "mostly minor technical differences".

But judges in Maryland and Hawaii questioned the legality of the ban, which critics say is discriminatory.

A hearing in a separate lawsuit by Hawaii is scheduled for Wednesday.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh also reported in a statement, "While this administration is packaging this as a new and improved executive order, it is the same ban that discriminates against the same people, it was wrong the first time and it's wrong the second". It also removed a provision for certain religious minorities. Temporary orders can't normally be appealed, which means the government may have to wait before trying to undo the Hawaii court's block on the travel ban. Both judges cited comments Trump made on the campaign trail, stating he would ban all Muslims from entering the country.

The cap "draws no distinction whatsoever on the basis of religion", government lawyers argue.

Trump on Wednesday called the revised order a "watered-down version" of the first one.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has joined the case in Washington state, said: "Today's order by the federal District Court of Hawaii marks yet another victory for the Constitution and the rule of law".

The San Francisco appeals court has authority over federal courts in nine western states, including Hawaii and California, the most populous state.

  • Leroy Wright