Sunday 22 September 2019

Second judge blocks Donald Trump's latest travel ban

The Trump administration in September announced the restrictions affecting citizens of seven countries (AP)
The Trump administration in September announced the restrictions affecting citizens of seven countries (AP)

A judge in Maryland has become the second federal judge to block the Trump administration's latest travel ban hours before it was set to take full effect.

US District Judge Theodore Chuang granted a nationwide preliminary injunction after US District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii blocked the revised ban.

The ban sought to place travel restrictions on citizens of eight countries - Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Venezuela - and had been due to come into effect Wednesday.

Judge Watson's ruling said the new ban fails to show that nationality alone makes a person a greater security risk to the US.

Judge Chuang's ruling said the administration had "not shown that national security cannot be maintained without an unprecedented eight-country travel ban".

"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," Judge Watson wrote.

He said the ban is inconsistent in the way some countries are included or left out. For example, Iraq failed to meet the security benchmark but was omitted from the ban. Somalia met the information-sharing benchmark but was included.

The ban, announced in September, applied to travellers from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with some Venezuelan government officials and their families.

The Trump administration said the ban was based on an assessment of each country's security situation and willingness to share information with the US.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the ruling "dangerously flawed" and said it "undercuts the president's efforts to keep the American people safe".

The Justice Department said it will quickly appeal.

The judge's ruling applies only to the six Muslim-majority countries on the list. It does not affect the restrictions against North Korea or Venezuela, because Hawaii did not ask for that.

The state of Hawaii challenged the ban on a set of mostly Muslim countries, arguing that the restrictions would separate families and undermine the recruiting of diverse college students.

"This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion," Hawaii attorney general Doug Chin said in a statement.

"Today is another victory for the rule of law."

Judge Watson, appointed to the bench by Barack Obama, said the new restrictions ignore a federal appeals court ruling against Donald Trump's previous ban.

The latest version "plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the 9th Circuit has found antithetical to ... the founding principles of this nation", he wrote.

Hawaii also argued the updated ban was a continuation of Mr Trump's campaign call for a ban on Muslims, despite the addition of two countries without a Muslim majority.

Judge Watson noted that Hawaii had argued Mr Trump did not back down from that call, listing in the ruling a series of June tweets "in which (Trump) complained about how the Justice Department had submitted a 'watered down, politically correct version' to the Supreme Court".


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