Trump administration appeals partial block of travel ban by Maryland judge

Oliver Laughland
The Trump administration suffered a stinging blow to its plans to block visa applicants from six Muslim-majority countries and temporarily halt the US refugee resettlement program. Photograph: Jim Bourg/Reuters

The Trump administration has appealed against a federal court order issued in the state of Maryland that partially blocks the president’s revised travel ban.

The Department of Justice’s acting solicitor general, Jeffrey Wall, informed Maryland’s southern district court in a filing on Friday that the government will challenge the ruling in the fourth circuit appeals court.

The Trump administration suffered a stinging blow to its plans to block visa applicants from six Muslim-majority countries and temporarily halt the US refugee resettlement program, after two federal courts – the other in Hawaii – issued temporary stays on the president’s executive order.

The Maryland order, issued by the district judge Theodore Chuang, only covers the part of Trump’s travel ban relating to visa issuances from the six countries. The temporary order issued in Hawaii, by the district judge Derrick Watson, covers two complete sections of the order and restricts Trump from altering the refugee resettlement program.

The president had vowed to challenge the Hawaii ruling, which he branded an “unprecedented judicial overreach” at a rally shortly after the order was handed down on Wednesday evening. He told a crowd of supporters: “We’re going to fight this terrible rule, we’re going to take this case as far as it will go, including the supreme court. We’re going to win.”

But the decision to appeal against the Maryland order over the Hawaii ruling could indicate the DoJ’s resistance to contest yet another decision against Trump’s travel ban in the ninth circuit appeals court, where a challenge to the Hawaii ruling would be heard. Last month the ninth circuit unanimously ruled to enforce a temporary nationwide restraining order against Trump’s first order, which was chaotically rolled out and subject to a number of legal challenges across the country.

Also on Friday, a federal judge in Seattle said he would not rule on a request from an immigrant rights group to block the revised travel ban because the two other judges had already halted it. Judge James Robart said the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project could ask him to reconsider “should circumstances change”.

Last month, Robart granted a request by the state of Washington to halt the initial travel ban.

Trump’s second travel ban, which had been due to go into effect just hours after the Hawaii ruling, had been designed to avoid some of the legal complaints about the first order. But Watson found that the state of Hawaii and a local imam, who challenged the order together, had successfully argued the new order would “likely” violate the establishment clause of the US constitution, which protects against religious discrimination.

“The Department of Justice may think that it has a better chance of convincing a panel of the fourth circuit, which 15 years ago was considered the most conservative appeals court in the country,” said Carl Tobias, professor of law at the University of Richmond. Tobias added that the court is now considered more moderate as six of the 15 judges were appointed by President Obama.

The government could still appeal against the Hawaii temporary order as well but as of late Friday afternoon had not filed any paperwork indicating an intention to do so.

The Maryland case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of refugee advocacy and legal groups, and resulted in a preliminary injunction issued on Thursday morning.

Omar Jadwat, an attorney for the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and who argued parts of the case in court on Wednesday, said on Friday that he was prepared to fight the government’s appeal in court.

“President Trump’s Muslim ban has fared miserably in the courts, and for good reason – it violates fundamental provisions of our constitution,” Jadwat said in a statement. “We look forward to defending this careful and well-reasoned decision in the appeals court.”

Margaret Huang, executive director Amnesty International USA, also expressed confidence that the government’s appeal would not be successful, but called on Congress to pass legislation that would “permanently override” Trump’s order.

“President Trump’s Muslim ban remains indefensible, no matter how many times it is brought to court,” Huang said, adding: “A prolonged legal battle over this ban will create more uncertainty for families around the world. Congress must intervene and pass legislation to permanently override this order.”

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes