President Donald Trump’s revised executive order on travel and refugees was halted quicker than the first, thanks to a federal judge in Hawaii.
The revised order implemented a temporary travel ban on just six countries this time (taking Iraq off the banned list, and keeping Sudan, Syria, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Yemen), while extending a temporary halt to the admission of all refugees, unlike solely Syrian refugees last time.
Despite that, in a 43-page opinion, Judge Derrick K. Watson pointed to Trump’s past comments about banning Muslims to justify halting the order (even though 90+ percent of the world Muslim population is unaffected).
After the first executive order was struck down, Trump’s options were to either challenge it in a higher court, or issue a revised order. Obviously, he opted for the latter option. However, in this case, Trump could end up getting what he wants.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
President Donald Trump won a favorable court ruling Friday on his revised executive order on immigration and refugees, a decision that has no immediate impact but gives the White House new ammunition as it appeals other judicial decisions that blocked his new travel restrictions.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga in Alexandria, VA, said Mr. Trump has broad authority over the U.S. border and likely didn’t exceed those powers in his revised order, which sought to temporarily bar U.S. entry for people from six Muslim majority countries.
Mr. Trump has cited national security as a basis for the restrictions, saying they were needed to protect against terrorism.
Judge Trenga, a George W. Bush appointee, credited that explanation, saying the president “identified a broad range of conditions, circumstances and conditions that raise facially legitimate and bona fide national security bases for the order.”
And he’s right.
While the liberal talking point was there were no terrorists coming from the original seven countries banned, it was quickly revealed that, in fact, 72 terror convictions, including 17 who claimed to be refugees, three who came in as students, and 25 who eventually became US citizens.
Judge Trenga’s 32-page ruling parted ways with judges in Hawaii and Maryland who blocked the travel ban last week after finding the president likely disfavored Muslims in an unlawful way.
The decision has no immediate practical impact because the Hawaii and Maryland rulings blocking Mr. Trump’s order nationwide remain in effect. But it gives the Trump administration a favorable precedent it can now cite as litigation around the country continues.
The Virginia judge, like the other judges, said Mr. Trump and his advisers had made past statements that could be read to suggest that the president’s purpose was to impose an unlawful ban on Muslims. But Judge Trenga said those earlier statements mattered less now because the revised executive order was far narrower and less restrictive of travel than the president’s first executive order, issued Jan. 27, which was blocked by the courts.
The judge cited many of the changes embodied in the new order, including the elimination of a preference for Christian refugees from Muslim countries and the inclusion of new exemptions for travelers who had been previously approved for residency or travel to the U.S.
The revisions “have reduced the probative value of the president’s statements to the point that it is no longer likely that plaintiffs can succeed on their claim that the predominant purpose of [the revised order] is to discriminate against Muslims based on their religion,” the judge wrote.
The Justice Department, which is defending the travel restrictions, applauded the ruling. “As the court correctly explains, the president’s executive order falls well within his authority to safeguard the nation’s security,” a department spokeswoman said.
Ironically, this ruling was a result of a legal challenge brought forward by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other Muslim community leaders.
The executive order is still halted, but Trump now has some ammunition to use in legal battles to come.
[Note: This post was written by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]