The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals will on Monday weigh in on a challenge to President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban targeting six Muslim majority countries.
After a series of stinging legal defeats, Trump’s administration hopes to convince a federal appeals court that his ban is motivated by national security, not religion.
The Appeals Court in Maryland will examine a ruling that blocks the administration from temporarily barring new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It is the first time an appeals court will hear arguments on the revised travel ban, which is likely destined for the US Supreme Court.
The challengers in the Maryland case include six people, some of whom are US citizens, who say the ban would prevent family members from entering the United States.
Pointing to the Republican’s promises on the campaign trail to bar Muslims from entering the country, a federal judge in Maryland found in March that the policy appeared to be driven primarily by religious animus.
The March order was Trump’s second effort to craft travel restrictions. The first, issued on January 27, led to chaos and protests at airports before being blocked by courts. The second order was intended to overcome the legal problems posed by the original ban, but was also blocked by judges before it could go into effect on March 16.
Attorneys for the US Justice Department said the court should not rely on Trump’s statements, but on the text of the policy, which they stressed is necessary to protect the country from terrorism. The banned countries represent just a fraction of the predominantly Muslim countries worldwide, they noted.
“The court should have focused on official acts, not perceived subjective motivations,” the attorneys say in court documents.
The American Civil Liberties Union and National Immigration Law Center said Trump wants the courts to “blind themselves to the ample, public, and uncontested evidence” that the policy targets Muslims.
“The basic question in this case is whether the mountain of evidence that exists as to the improper motive is going to be looked at by this court or swept under the rug,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who will argue the case Monday.
It will likely be weeks before the 4th Circuit issues a decision. And even if the court sides with Trump, the travel ban will remain blocked unless the president also wins in another appeals court.
Another federal judge in Hawaii blocked the entry restrictions and part of the order that suspended entry of refugee applicants for 120 days. An appeal in that case will be considered by the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on May 15.