Judge rebukes Trump over travel ban

"Unless corrected by the Supreme Court, the majority's new approach, which is unsupported by any Supreme Court case, will become a sword for plaintiffs to challenge facially neutral government actions, particularly those affecting regions dominated by a single religion", he said.

"The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the decision of the divided court, which blocks the President's efforts to strengthen this country's national security", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

The first travel ban issued January 27 was aimed at seven countries and triggered chaos and protests across the country as travelers were stopped from boarding worldwide flights and detained at airports for hours. The decision bars the administration from suspending new visas for visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

In Thursday's decision, the appellate court explicitly referred to Trump's advocacy of a Muslim ban during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Many legal experts think the Fourth Circuit's ruling sets the stage for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the executive order. The first order included Iraq.

A federal appeals court ruling says President Donald Trump's revised travel ban vaguely invoked national security interests but is rooted in religious intolerance.

Chief Judge Gregory, who wrote the majority opinion, was first installed in a recess appointment by Democratic President Bill Clinton and then nominated to the same post by Republican former president George W. Bush.

The only examples Trump's order cited of immigrants born overseas and convicted of terrorism-related crimes in the United States include two Iraqis and a Somalian refugee, Gregory wrote.

Protesters wave signs and chant during a demonstration against President Donald Trump's revised travel banoutside a federal courthouse in Seattle. "We have no choice".

But the ruling from the 4th Circuit was the latest in a series of defeats for the administration.

The question for this Court, distilled to its essential form, is whether the Constitution ... remains a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace. "We have won at every stage so far, and we've won because this ban is such a stark violation of our fundamental principles of religious liberty", he said.

Because of that religious animus, the court ruled that Trump's executive order could never "survive any measure of constitutional review".

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals is also evaluating the travel ban in a separate appeal.

A federal court in Hawaii has issued a broader injunction that halted both the travel ban and the suspension of the United States refugee admissions program. Reinstating the ban would require the votes of five of the nine justice, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the likely swing vote.

In an opinion that concurred with the majority on Thursday, Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote that the administration did nothing to distance itself from the first order, describing the revised ban as "the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing".

The approach "adopts a new rule of law that uses campaign statements to recast the plain, unambiguous, and religiously neutral text", Niemeyer, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote.

They decided the arguments against the executive order were strong indeed.

If the court agrees to hear the case, the appeal wouldn't be heard until fall at the earliest, unless the justices take an extraordinary step and order arguments sooner.

  • Joanne Flowers