Two district court judges have stopped President Donald Trump’s second travel ban for being unconstitutional, but this time the Trump administration is determined to appeal. Donald Trump’s first travel ban – an executive order that banned immigrants and dual citizens from 7 predominantly Muslim countries – barely got off the ground before U.S. courts ruled it unconstitutional. The President has since ordered a second travel ban into effect, tweaking the order to remove Iraq from the list of banned countries, open a channel for exemptions, only temporarily ban Syrian refugees, not prioritize Christians and exempt green card holders or other permanent residents from the ban. Despite the changes the executive order may still be unconstitutional simply on principal.
First the U.S. District Court Judge who blocked the previous travel ban ruled that the second ban was different enough that it would need a separate ruling. Then a federal judge in Hawaii heard a case from a local Imam filing suit against the order and blocked it on the basis that it was unconstitutional. District judge Theodore Chuang heard a case by the ACLU and based off of it blocked a portion of the travel ban. The judges blocked the order on the argument that it was religious discrimination – something the U.S. Constitution protects against. Part of the reasoning for the block came from a reading of the context around Donald Trump. Trump’s campaign promises to stop all Muslims from entering the U.S. make his executive order stand on even shakier ground; the ban appears as a way to accomplish one of Trump’s campaign goals without going through all the trouble and controversy of creating and passing a full fledged bill of law.
President Trump specifically attacked the Hawaii ruling, calling it an “unprecedented judicial overreach” but went after Maryland’s ruling instead. Trump and the Department of Justice might have chosen to contest the Maryland ruling because Hawaii is a part of the 9th circuit court, which already unanimously rejected Trump’s previous travel ban. Maryland’s 4th circuit court has a reputation for being more conservative. What happens next will be determined by the legal arguments of the Department of Justice and the decision of the 4th circuit court. Either way, there is a chance that the battle over the travel ban persists and pushes into higher and higher courts, potentially reaching the Supreme Court. Trump has promised to supporters “to take this case as far as it will go” – though that may just be bluster not atypical to the President. In the meantime immigrants and refugees both inside and outside of the U.S. face steep uncertainty.