Federal judge in Maryland blocks major parts of Trump’s Muslim ban

Judges are using Trump’s words against him.

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Nashville, TN. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Nashville, TN. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

A federal judge in Maryland ruled early Thursday to temporarily block major provisions of President Donald Trump’s revised executive order that prohibits travel by immigrants and visitors from six Muslim-majority countries. The move came just a few hours after another federal judge in Hawaii issued a similar but broader ruling against the Muslim ban.

Trump’s revised executive order — which was set to take effect Thursday at 12:01 a.m. — seeks to block travelers from six Muslim-majority countries for at least 90 days and suspend refugee resettlement for 120 days. It also sharply curtails the number of refugee admissions for the 2017 fiscal year.

Trump’s initial executive order also applied to green card and visa holders and travelers from Iraq, as well as gave favorable treatment to Christians.

On Thursday, Judge Theodore D. Chuang ruled against prohibiting travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — the central provision of Trump’s ban. Chuang did not put a full block on the executive order, but in his decision, he also writes that plaintiffs “did not sufficiently develop” an argument to support temporarily banning refugee resettlement.

“In this highly unique case, the record provides strong indications that the national security purpose is not the primary purpose for the travel ban,” Chuang wrote in his decision. “The fact that the White House took the highly irregular step of first introducing the travel ban without receiving the input and judgment of the relevant national security agencies strongly suggests that the religious purpose was primary, and the national security purpose, even if legitimate, is a secondary post hoc rationale.”

The pair of rulings represent a strong rebuke of Trump’s policy, which administration officials have argued was necessary out of national security concerns to ensure stricter screening practices of travelers from these countries. The judiciary has so far been skeptical that’s the case.

Using the words of Trump and his cabinet members, Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii concluded that the order failed to establish “a strong likelihood of success” that it wasn’t rooting its claims on religious discrimination.

Trump fumed over Watson’s decision during a rally Wednesday night in Nashville, Tennessee.

“The order he blocked was a watered-down version of the first one,” Trump said, decrying the decision as an “unprecedented judicial overreach.” He then said that he may take the issue to the Supreme Court.

After the Hawaii ruling, the Department of Justice issued a statement Wednesday night saying that it “disagrees with the federal district court’s ruling, which is flawed both in reasoning and in scopes.”

“The President’s Executive Order falls squarely within his lawful authority in seeking to protect our Nation’s security, and the Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts,” the DOJ statement continued.

Immigrant and refugee advocacy groups who were plaintiffs in the Maryland case have cheered on both rulings.

“The Maryland district court has issued yet another strong judicial condemnation of President Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban,” Omar Jadwat, the director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case in Maryland, said in a statement. “If, as promised, he continues to try to defend this indefensible order in the courts — or goes back to the first iteration of the ban — he will just keep losing.”