Appeals court to weigh challenge to revised Trump travel ban

A federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday on US President Donald Trump's ban on travellers from six countries.

Two of the nominees who will be unveiled on Monday were on the list of Trump's potential Supreme Court justices: Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who will be nominated to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Justice David Stras, who sits on the Minnesota Supreme Court and is Trump's pick to sit on the 8th Circuit, Politico news reported. The White House is fighting that ruling in the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, which is set to hear that case in Seattle on May 15.

The Richmond, Virginia-based court will examine a federal judge in Maryland's ruling that blocks the administration from temporarily barring new visas for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The Trump administration's new policy temporarily suspends the USA refugee program and blocks new visas to citizens of six majority Muslim countries.

Now, nine judges are Democratic appointees - including six from Obama - and five judges are Republican appointees. "Its operation doesn't have anything to do with religion", Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall told the appeals court. The court will also provide a link to the audio feed on its website.

In an extraordinary move, the 4th Circuit has chosen in this case to go straight to the "en banc" or full-court hearing.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law and an expert on the court, said it is hard to predict when there might be a ruling. Chief Judge Roger Gregory was given a recess appointment to the court by President Bill Clinton and was reappointed by President George W. Bush.

The administration argues that the court shouldn't question the president's national security decisions based on campaign promises.

Justice Department lawyers say the court should evaluate the words of the executive order and the administration's explanation for its objective, avoiding "judicial psychoanalysis" of what Trump may have meant during the campaign.

Although it does not explicitly mention Muslims, US District Judge Theodore Chuang of Maryland accepted arguments that Trump's history of anti-Muslim rhetoric presented "a convincing case" that his second executive decree amounted to "the realisation of the long-envisioned Muslim ban".

The challengers "invoke their rights to be free from government condemnation of their religion within the United States", the ACLU says.

They are being represented by the National Immigration Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union.

It will likely be weeks before the 4th Circuit issues a decision.

Trump's earliest efforts to implement his agenda were dramatically derailed by the courts, which pushed back against his proposed travel ban and his order to withhold funding from "sanctuary cities" that limit cooperation with immigration authorities.

Now nearly 100 days after the original travel ban, the government says the period of 90 days was reset when the administration issued the new order in March.

  • Carolyn Briggs