President Trump’s so-called “travel ban” is back in the spotlight on Monday due to the controversial legal battle that will take place in front of a dozen federal judges in Richmond, Virgina. It was just two months ago that a federal judge in Maryland imposed a nationwide halt to the revised president’s executive order. The order sought to keep foreign nationals from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days. The Maryland judge concluded that the travel ban likely violated the Constitution by disfavoring Muslims. He drew much of his basis from Trump’s past statements that were made during the presidential campaign. The Justice Department appealed that decision in March, and now the case is in the hands of a federal appeals court that has been shaped by six Obama appointments to the bench.
In most cases like this, an appeal from the district court woud be heard by a randomly assigned panel of three judges. But for this case, the judges of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals decided it should be heard by the full court. Ten of the fifteen active judges on the court are either Clinton or Obama appointees. And CNN has recently learned that one of the more conservative votes is off the table, so this case will be heard by a decidedly left-leaning court.
The suit against the executive order has been brought to the court by several refugee rights organizations along with individual plaintiffs who claim that the order would separate them from loved ones abroad. The suit also claims that the “anti-Muslim animus” underlying the revised executive order is readily apparent from the many public statements the president has made in the past. US District Court Judge Theodore Chuang concluded in March that despite the revision of Trump’s order, “The history of public statements continues to provide a convincing case that the purpose of the second executive order remains the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban.” The judge disagreed with the administration’s argument that campaign statements shouldn’t count in lawsuits and noted that the Trump campaign website still contains a statement on “preventing Muslim immigration” to this day.
Lee Gelernt, an attorney for one of the plaintiffs and deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said, “We believe that it makes little sense as a matter of law and logic to ignore the President’s own statements telling the country what the purpose of this (executive order) is. This is not a situation where we have to psychoanalyze the President. The President has made clear why he’s doing this.”
Even if the White House team wins this appeal, the executive order will not go into effect. A second judge in Hawaii has also issued a nationwide ruling that halted the 90-day travel ban. That appeal will be heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals next Monday in Seattle.
Do you think the White House will prevail with this temporary travel ban?