On Monday, a federal appeals court in Richmond will become the first to weigh the legality of President Trump’s revised executive order on travel and refugees.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the Trump administration’s appeal of a Maryland court ruling, one of two orders currently blocking the administration from enforcement of its second version of the travel ban.
Justice Department lawyers will argue that the lower court’s ruling blocking the order should be put on hold and the executive order allowed to take effect while the merits of the case are argued in court.
Unlike in most appeals, in which a panel of three judges from a circuit are selected to initially hear a case, this appeal will be heard by the full 4th Circuit, which has 15 active judges.
The case at hand was initially brought by the International Refugee Assistance Project and the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge Mr. Trump’s revised executive order, issued after the first was declared likely unconstitutional and blocked by a federal court.
The revised order, while it pared back some restrictions, would still temporarily ban travel to the U.S. by nationals of six majority-Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — temporarily halt all refugee resettlement, and lower the number of refugees accepted by the U.S. this year from 110,000 people to 50,000 people.
The groups argued that Mr. Trump’s revised order was similar to the initial order, which they believed “was motivated by animus toward Muslims” and was a form of religious discrimination.
U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang agreed, issuing a preliminary injunction and writing in his March 16 ruling that “in this highly unique case, the record provides strong indications that the national security purpose is not the primary purpose for the travel ban.”
He noted the Trump administration officials’ own prior public statements, which he said “provide a convincing case that the purpose of the Second Executive Order remains the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban.”
The Justice Department appealed the ruling, arguing that the president has “broad constitutional and statutory authority” to take the actions outlined in the executive order and that no part of the order itself discriminates based on religion.
DOJ lawyers say the Maryland judge’s ruling “undermines the President’s constitutional and statutory duty to protect the national interest and national security.”
Judge Chuang limited his injunction to only prevent the administration from blocking travel to the U.S. from nationals of the six majority-Muslims countries.
A broader order, issued by Hawaii-based U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, blocks both the travel and refugee portions of the ban. An appeal of that decision is also set to be considered by an appeals court. A three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the administration’s challenge May 15 in Seattle.
Monday’s hearing in Richmond will take place at 2:30 p.m. and audio from the hearing is expected to be streamed on C-SPAN.