The Trump administration is seeking to enforce travel restrictions on six mostly Muslim countries while it fights to overturn a judge’s ruling freezing the policy.
The U.S. Justice Department asked the federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday for quick action on a request to put on hold a Hawaii judge’s decision blocking enforcement of President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.
“This case presents constitutional and statutory issues of nationwide significance,” the U.S. said in the filing. “The district court here enjoined the president and government agencies from enforcing key provisions of the order, which are designed to protect national security, an interest that this court has recognized as paramount.”
The appeals court, the same one that upheld a judge’s order blocking Trump’s original travel ban, was asked by the Justice Department for permission to file its formal motion for a stay by April 7. Under a proposed schedule, a hearing would be set for after April 28, when the final written arguments would be due.
The appeal request continues a two-month legal fight tied to Trump’s efforts to temporarily restrict travel from Syria, Iran, Yemen and three other countries and exclude refugees from around the world. The litigation, led by Democratic state attorneys general and civil rights groups, has spanned all but the first 10 days of Trump’s administration.
The Justice Department argued its revised March 6 edict addressed earlier issues that led judges to reject Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu rejected that claim, saying the administration had tried to “sanitize” the original.
The government has also appealed a Maryland judge’s decision to partially block the travel ban. More than 40 former advisers on national security to presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush filed a brief Friday in that appeal case arguing against the travel ban. Allowing the order to take effect would “wreak havoc on our nation’s security and deeply held American values and would threaten innocent lives,” they said in their filing.
Seattle federal Judge James Robart, whose ruling blocked Trump’s earlier policy nationwide, paused proceedings in a pair of cases challenging the revised policy. A federal judge in Virginia, meanwhile, has ruled in favor of the administration.
Trump’s first order spurred chaos at airports across the country and a rush to the courthouse by opponents. The administration spent weeks crafting its revised order.
While exempting permanent U.S. residents and people who already had visas, the new policy imposed a 90-day ban on new visas for travelers from the six countries. It also suspended refugee programs for 120 days.
Trump’s campaign rhetoric and comments have come back to haunt him in court. His calls as a candidate for a “total shutdown” on Muslims entering the U.S., as well as discussion of creating a Muslim registry, were cited to back up arguments that his executive orders were motivated by religious bias.
“The judges might have ruled differently if those comments had not been made,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think tank. “And the fact that a judge in Virginia upheld the order really supports the argument that this deserves to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.”
Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said earlier that he was expecting the federal government’s appeal.
“If I were to give the administration every benefit of the doubt, I’d say they’re inexperienced and they’re learning,” Chin said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s obviously a steep learning curve, but that’s just not enough to justify making decisions that fly in the face of the Constitution.”
The appeals case is State of Hawaii v. Trump, 17-15589, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco). The Honolulu case is State of Hawaii v. Trump, 17-cv-00050, U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii (Honolulu).
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