Political News

Travel ban rulings highlight trouble posed by Trump record

Posted March 16

— Federal law gives the president broad authority over immigration. Jimmy Carter used it to deny some Iranians entry to the U.S. during the hostage crisis, Ronald Reagan to bar Cubans who didn't already have relatives here and President Obama to keep out North Korean officials.

So why does President Donald Trump keep running into legal trouble with his efforts to freeze immigration by refugees and citizens of some predominantly Muslim nations?

When federal courts in Hawaii and Maryland blocked Trump's revised travel ban from taking effect, the judges spelled out their major concern: the unusual record of statements by the president and his advisers suggesting the executive order's real purpose was to discriminate against Muslims, in violation of the Constitution's ban on officially favoring or disfavoring any religion.

As the legal fight moves into the appeals courts, two key issues will be the extent of the president's broad immigration powers — and whether Trump's own record stymies his plans.



Neither U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland nor Judge Derrick Watson bought the administration's reasoning that the travel ban is about national security.

"The history of public statements continues to provide a convincing case that the purpose of the second executive order remains the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban," Chuang wrote.

Watson criticized what he called the "illogic" of the government's arguments and cited "significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus" behind the travel ban. He also noted that while courts should not examine the "veiled psyche" and "secret motives" of government decision-makers, "the remarkable facts at issue here require no such impermissible inquiry."

"For instance, there is nothing 'veiled' about this press release: 'Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,'" he wrote, referring to a statement Trump issued as a candidate.

But the scope of the rulings differed. In a challenge brought by Hawaii, Watson blocked the federal government from enforcing its ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries and its suspension of the nation's refugee program. Chuang only blocked the six-nation travel ban, saying it wasn't clear that the suspension of the refugee program was similarly motivated by religious bias.

A federal judge in Seattle on Thursday ruled that his order blocking Trump's original travel ban does not apply to the revised executive order because there are enough differences between the two.

Judge James Robart noted that Washington and several other states have also asked him to block the revised ban. He said he would rule on that request at a later date.



Speaking Wednesday evening at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, Trump called the ruling in Hawaii an example of "unprecedented judicial overreach" and said his administration would appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court. He also called his new travel ban a watered-down version of the first one, which he said he wished he could implement.

"We're going to win. We're going to keep our citizens safe," the president said. "The danger is clear. The law is clear. The need for my executive order is clear."

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday that the Justice Department was exploring its options, but that it expected to file an appeal of the Maryland ruling with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and to seek clarification of the Hawaii order before appealing to the 9th Circuit. That circuit is where a three-judge panel unanimously declined to reinstate Trump's original travel ban when it was put on hold by a Seattle Judge last month.

Despite the legal victories for critics of the ban, it's far from clear that they will continue to win. A different panel of judges in the 9th Circuit will probably hear the appeal of Hawaii's case. And on Wednesday, five judges signed a dissent criticizing the court's decision not to reconsider and throw out the panel's ruling on the original travel ban.

"Whatever we, as individuals, may feel about the president or the executive order, the president's decision was well within the powers of the presidency," Judge Jay Bybee wrote for the five.



In 1952, with the nation fearful of communist infiltration, Congress gave the president the authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act to take action:

"Whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may ... suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate," the law says.

That power has been invoked dozens of times. But legal experts say those examples were more limited than what Trump has sought.

Citing a report that reviewed White House administrations going back to Reagan, Chuang noted in his ruling that no president has issued a ban on the entry "of all citizens from more than one country at the same time, much less six nations all at once."

Chuang found that the travel ban likely violated another aspect of federal immigration law, barring discrimination on the basis of nationality in the issuance of immigrant visas. That law was passed in 1965 as part of an effort to end longstanding immigration quotas that had been criticized as racist.

Ultimately, the cases will come down to the ways in which that law and the Constitution constrain the president's authority.

"That's the tug of war that is going to play out and, I suspect, go before the Supreme Court," said Ted Ruthizer, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "I think it will be a very seminal decision as to what are the limitations on the executive's powers."


Thanawala reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols in Greenbelt, Maryland; Sarah Brumfield and Jill Colvin in Washington, D.C.; and Jennifer Sinco Kelleher in Honolulu contributed to this report.


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  • Albert Furter Mar 17, 10:26 a.m.
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    It turns out that words do in fact matter. Sad that we have a president who, after 70 years on this planet, has still not understood that.

  • John Jones Mar 17, 10:03 a.m.
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    This leftist nuts have lost it. They can't tell the difference between a man and woman. Some think they are Indians, but aren't. Some think they are black, but clearly are Caucasian. They see absolutely no harm in taking the life of an unborn child, but go bat$#$# when a lion or gorilla is killed. They shut down schools to protest, block major free ways, but for what???

    They lie under oath, plead the 5th, target conservatives, scream racism where there's ZERO proof. They cry and pout every time they lose and don't get their way.

    AND FOLKS that is exactly why Donald J Trump in the 45th president of the United States of America. Suck it up butter cups.

  • David Craft Mar 17, 6:48 a.m.
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    Amazing how the media has gotten behind the 3rd world powers supporting the immigrants over the welfare of the American people....

  • Howard Roark Mar 16, 11:40 p.m.
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    LOL. Dude, you are way, way out there.

    Where do you even get your news from? You've been reading some far out sh**.

    You must be trolling, right?

  • Clarence Drumgoole Mar 16, 11:19 p.m.
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    Trump shouldn't have ran off at the mouth and said ban Muslims. Singling out folk religion or race is a no, no! Just like a lot of these racist comments on this site

  • Jim Smith Mar 16, 11:11 p.m.
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    Exactly! Because murdering unborn children and allowing illegal immigration are the same thing, no difference whatsoever. So glad we finally have a POTUS who believes in the morally right thing to do.

  • Rod Runner Mar 16, 12:55 p.m.
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    If what you say is anywhere remotely true, then the President is focusing his efforts on the wrong people. Don't you think?

    If there are people ready to kill immigrants, like you say, then the President should be immobilizing the FBI to track these future murderers down instead of stopping refugees that statistically are not doing anyone harm.

    Also, "so called immigrants?" What? When people immigrate to another country, they are immigrants, no matter their status, not so called. What exactly do you mean "so called?"

  • Rod Runner Mar 16, 12:51 p.m.
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    You think the judge wrote all 43 pages himself? You know that there are people that work for judges that help write their rulings, right? If you're going to comment on judge's decisions, this is basic stuff you need to know about how they work.

    Also, I imagine since this judge knew he was hearing this case that he began having this prepared so that it could be released before midnight EST. It doesn't mean his mind was made up, it means he was prepared to make up his mind in time to stop. He could have prepared another ruling for the travel ban as well as the one against it.

    Wouldn't it be stupid for the judge not to be prepared to release a ruling as soon as possible since he knew already he was the judge for this case?

  • Rod Runner Mar 16, 12:47 p.m.
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    Yes, a travel ban is within the law. But laws still need to be challenged for constitutionality. President Trump's intention was a total ban on Muslims coming into the US. He really said that on the campaign. That can now be used as evidence in court of his intentions.

    The 1st amendment applies to the government, not to the people from outside the country. Proponents of the travel ban like to keep saying, "the constitution of the USA doesn't apply to foreigners." They are 100% right for the most part.

    But the establishment clause applies to the US federal government, and that is what has been determined to be violated based on Trump's intentions before writing both of these EO's.

  • Rod Runner Mar 16, 12:44 p.m.
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    Why would Obama need to announce his trips? He is not President anymore. And especially a trip to Hawaii, it's where he was born. Let's make something out of nothing!!!

    Obama has no power, what we he need to say to a judge in a liberal state to make such a ruling?