A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled 10-3 to "affirm in substantial part" a lower court ruling that had temporarily blocked President Trump's executive order banning the issuance of new visas for 90 days to individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
The ban would affect thousands of travelers coming to the United States to see family, attend school, and work in high-demand fields—including health care. The Association of American Medical Colleges in March said about 500 people had applied for medical residency in the United States from the six nations and could be directly affected by the revised order's 90-day ban.
Appeals court upholds decision blocking executive order
On Thursday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld one of the lower court rulings blocking the order—which was a revision of a prior executive order that also was blocked by the courts—from taking effect. The 10-3 ruling fell "essentially along party lines," Politico reports, with Republican-appointed judges ruling to allow the order to take effect and Democratic-appointed judges ruling to continue blocking the order.
Ultimately the majority said they felt the order was unconstitutional and ruled that the lower court therefore had the authority to block the order.
Chief Judge Roger Gregory in the court's majority opinion wrote that the order violated the Constitution because it is biased against Muslims, citing comments Trump made throughout his presidential campaign. He wrote, "The government's asserted national security interest in enforcing (the six-country visa ban) appears to be a post hoc, secondary justification for an executive action rooted in religious animus and intended to bar Muslims from this country." Gregory added that although the president has broad authority over immigration, "that power is not absolute. It cannot go unchecked."
Dissenting opinion raises national security concerns
In a dissenting opinion, three judges wrote that the court's majority ruling would interfere with the executive branch's judgement and ability to respond to national security threats. They wrote, "The real losers in this case are the millions of individual Americans whose security is threatened on a daily basis by those who seek to do us harm." They continued, "The security of our nation is indisputably lessened as a result of the injunction. Moreover, the president and his national security advisors (and perhaps future presidents) will be seriously hampered in their ability to exercise their constitutional duty to protect this country."
The dissenting judges also predicted that the Supreme Court likely would reject the majority's decision to use statements Trump made throughout his campaign to influence their judgement.
Admin says it will appeal to SCOTUS
Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement said the administration will appeal the case to the Supreme Court. DOJ "strongly disagrees with the decision of the divided court," he said, adding, "The president is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States."
White House spokesperson Michael Short said, "We are confident the President's executive order to protect the country is fully lawful and ultimately will be upheld by the judiciary" (Gerstein, Politico, 5/25; Domonoske, "The Two-Way," NPR, 5/25; Savage, Los Angeles Times, 5/25).
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