Trump's latest travel ban order blocked

Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker speak to each other before the start of a program in Newark in 2014

A USA federal judge in Maryland issued a second halt on the latest version of President Donald Trump's entry ban, asserting that the president's own comments on the campaign trail and on Twitter convinced him that the directive was akin to an unconstitutional ban on Muslims.

The court explained that a person with "common sense" would see this ban as "the latest incarnation of the "Muslim ban" originally promised by President Trump as a candidate for the presidency".

Trump signed a presidential order late September that would ban most nationals of Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from entering the United States. They were to apply to citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen - and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.

The White House decried the court ruling, saying it "undercuts the President's efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States". He noted that the new version still "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, '" and that it "plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the Ninth Circuit has found antithetical to both Section 1152 (a) and the founding principles of this Nation". He said the order "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 harm US interests.

The fate of Trump's attempts to ban people from certain countries from the United States has been one of the most convoluted plot lines in an extremely convoluted presidency. The order's provisions are based on nationality, the judge noted, but he said the government had not shown that nationality alone would cause a security risk if the USA allowed entry of foreign nationals from the six designated countries.

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In both Maryland and Hawaii, the judges limited their rulings to travelers from the six Muslim-majority countries on the administration's latest list. The ban forsakes the rules Congress has laid down and attempts to create a new immigration system of the president's own design. "It's un-American, plain and simple", said Senator Coons, a member of the Senate Appropriations and Judiciary committees.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed that the administration would take the case to the Supreme Court to defend what he called "a lawful and necessary order".

Last Monday, a brief one page order handed down by the Supreme Court directed the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the IRAP v. Trump as moot without expressing any view on the merits of the case. From the perspective of the White House, of course, Watson himself could be viewed as violating those rules in acting like an active player rather than a referee in the game. A restructuring of the the travel ban wouldn't prevent lawyers from stringing the president's tweets together in an attempt to show its discriminatory intent, according to Ryan Garcia, a law professor at the University of Texas and the coauthor of "Social Media Law in a Nutshell". The current version not only includes non-Muslim countries and adds nuance to the categories of who's banned, but is also predicated (in theory) on the findings of a Department of Homeland Security report. Iraqis are instead subject to additional vetting, a provision the judge did not block.

"The categorical restrictions on entire populations of men, women and children, based upon nationality, are a poor fit for the issues regarding the sharing of "public-safety and terrorism-related information" that the president identifies", Watson wrote. That ban was also halted Hawaii's Judge Watson. The court explained that the new ban is "the inextricable re-animation of the twice-enjoined Muslim ban".

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