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Trump Travel Ban Blocked by Federal Court of Appeals

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has upheld a lower court’s ruling blocking President Trump’s revised travel ban. In a 205-page decision, the court rejected the government’s effort to limit travel to the United States from six predominantly Muslim countries. The court’s reasoning mirrored earlier skepticism expressed by the lower courts, and once again the President’s own rhetoric proved fatal to the legality of the executive order. The court commented that “Trump’s campaign statements reveal that on numerous occasions, he expressed anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as his intent, if elected, to ban Muslims.”

The initial travel ban was issued via executive order during Trump’s first 10 days in office. It blocked foreign travelers from seven predominately Muslim countries and resulted in widespread chaos. People found themselves stranded at airports, and protesters sprung up nationwide calling the policy un-American. It was almost immediately blocked in federal court. The revised order attempted to soften the original ban by allowing case-by-case exceptions for incoming travelers, lifting the ban against Iraqi visitors, and deleting any explicit reference to religion. Despite the changes, however, the revised order was blocked along similar lines as the original. 

The focus in court continues to be the underlying motivation of the travel ban. The final vote in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals was 10-3, and the judges appeared to be divided along ideological lines, with the three Republican appointees in dissent. The revised order “speaks with vague words of national security, but in the context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination,” the appeals court concluded. The President’s numerous comments were used as evidence of anti-Muslim sentiment. The majority uses these comments to argue that the travel ban is motivated by discriminatory intent, and such discrimination violates the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion.

The 4th Circuit’s decision is another striking blow to the Trump administration’s immigration agenda, but the President is confident that he will ultimately succeed if this case makes it to the Supreme Court. Historically, the Supreme Court has given U.S. Presidents a lot of leeway on immigration matters, but that power is not absolute, and this case raises a very important constitutional question. The Supreme Court will likely agree to hear the case, and if so, will have to determine whether statements made during Trump’s campaign should carry any weight in determining the legality of the travel ban.

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