USA: Federal Judge Blocks Trump’s Latest Travel Ban

File: People protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban in New York City, U.S., February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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A federal judge on Tuesday largely blocked the Trump administration from implementing the latest version of the president’s controversial travel ban, setting up yet another legal showdown on the extent of the executive branch’s powers when it comes to setting immigration policy.

The decision from Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii is sure to be appealed, but for now, it means that the administration cannot restrict the entry of travelers from six of the eight countries that officials said were either unable or unwilling to provide information that the United States wanted to vet their citizens.

The latest ban was set to fully go into effect in the early morning hours of Wednesday, barring various types of travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. Watson’s order stops it, at least temporarily, with respect to all the countries except North Korea and Venezuela.

In a 40-page decision granting the state of Hawaii’s request for a temporary restraining order, Watson wrote that the latest ban “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States.’”

He also wrote that the executive order “plainly discriminates based on nationality” in a way that was opposed to federal law and “the founding principles of this Nation.”

Trump had been blocked by courts from imposing his last two versions of the travel ban, but the ultimate question of whether he ever had the authority to do so remains somewhat murky.

The Supreme Court had been scheduled to hear arguments on his second travel ban, inked in March, which barred the entry of citizens from six Muslim majority countries and refugees from everywhere. But a key portion of that ban expired and Trump issued his latest ban before the hearing.

That prompted the justices to remove oral arguments from the calendar. They later dismissed one of the challenges to the March version of the ban.

[Latest travel ban will probably affect tens of thousands, and it could short-circuit the court battle]

Meanwhile, the State of Hawaii, the International Refugee Assistance Project and others who had sued over the March travel ban asked judges to block the new one. They argued that Trump had exceeded his legal authority to set immigration policy, and the latest measure — like the last two — fulfilled his unconstitutional campaign promise to implement a Muslim ban.

“It exceeds the limits on the President’s exclusion authority that have been recognized for nearly a century, by supplanting Congress’s immigration policies with the President’s own unilateral and indefinite ban. And it continues to effectuate the President’s unrepudiated promise to exclude Muslims from the United States,” the challengers in Hawaii wrote.

They asked a judge to block the ban with respect to all the Muslim majority countries, though they did not challenge the measures imposed against Venezuela and North Korea.

Legal analysts have said those challenging the latest travel ban face an uphill battle. The measure was only put into effect after an extensive process in which the United States negotiated with other countries for information, and the list of countries affected now includes two countries that are not Muslim-majority: Venezuela and North Korea.

Challengers to the ban argue, though, that the additions are mainly symbolic: The ban only affects certain government officials from Venezuela, and very few people actually travel to the United States from North Korea each year. They note Trump himself promised a “larger, tougher, and more specific” ban — meaning the new version would have the same legal problems as the prior iterations.

Some countries ultimately faced a complete ban than others, and the Trump administration has indicated they would make their way off the list if conditions changed.

For Syria and North Korea, the president’s proclamation blocked immigrants wanting to relocate to the United States and nonimmigrants wishing to visit in some capacity. For Iran, the proclamation blocked both immigrants and nonimmigrants, though it exempted students and those participating in a cultural exchange.

The proclamation blocked people from Chad, Libya and Yemen from coming to the United States as immigrants or on business or tourist visas, and it blocked people from Somalia from coming as immigrants. The proclamation named Venezuela, but it only blocked certain government officials.
– Matt Zapotosky I Washington Post

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