The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled today in favor of Hawaii’s challenge to President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, the second appeals court to reject the administration’s move to curb immigration from six mostly Muslim nations.
Today’s decision by a unanimous three-judge 9th Circuit panel helps keep the travel ban blocked, saying the administration violated federal immigration law and failed to provide a valid reason for the ban.
The administration has appealed another ruling against the ban to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is likely to consider the cases in tandem. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia last month cited the president’s campaign statements as evidence that the 90-day ban was unconstitutionally “steeped in animus and directed at a single religious group.”
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin has already filed a memorandum in the Supreme Court, urging the nation’s top court to reject Trump’s travel ban.
The 9th Circuit, which heard arguments in Seattle last month in Hawaii’s challenge to the ban, found no need to analyze Trump’s campaign statements. It ruled based on immigration law, not the Constitution.
“Immigration, even for the president, is not a one-person show,” the judges said. “The president’s authority is subject to certain statutory and constitutional restraints.”
Hawaii leaders issued statements lauding the court’s decision.
Gov. David Ige said, “Hawaii made the right decision in challenging a travel ban that had little factual basis and discriminated based strictly on national origin and religion. We will continue to stand against any attempts to erode the Constitution’s protections and to violate existing laws.”
U.S. Sen.Mazie K. Hirono, an immigrant and an outspoken opponent of the administration’s immigration policies, said, “Court after court has seen this Muslim Ban for what it is: an illegal attack on a group of individuals singled out for their religion. Today is a victory not only for Hawaii, but for our shared American values. The decision is a welcome reminder that the federal courts serve an invaluable function in our system of checks and balances.”
Fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said, “The Ninth Circuit’s decision to uphold (U.S. District )Judge Derrick Watson’s ruling against President Trump’s Muslim ban is another win for the rule of law. The courts continue to affirm what we already know: the Muslim ban is un-American, unconstitutional, and contrary to everything we stand for.”
Ninth Circuit Judges Michael Hawkins, Ronald Gould and Richard Paez — all appointed by President Bill Clinton — said the travel ban violated immigration law by discriminating against people based on their nationality when it comes to issuing visas and by failing to demonstrate that their entry would hurt American interests.
The president’s order did not tie citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to terrorist organizations or contributors to “active conflict,” the court said. It also did not provide any link between their nationality and their propensity to commit terrorism.
“In short, the order does not provide a rationale explaining why permitting entry of nationals from the six designated countries under current protocols would be detrimental to the interests of the United States,” the panel said.
Because of the conflict with immigration law, the judges said they didn’t need to consider whether it also violated the Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring or disfavoring any religion. The 4th Circuit found the policy unconstitutional on that basis.
The 9th Circuit also kept blocking Trump’s suspension of the U.S. refugee program. The court said he was required to consult with Congress in setting the number of refugees allowed into the country in a given year and that he could not decrease it midyear.
The refugee program is not at issue in the 4th Circuit case.
Trump issued his initial travel ban on a Friday in late January, bringing chaos and protests to airports around the country. A Seattle judge blocked its enforcement nationwide in response to a lawsuit by Washington state — a decision that was unanimously upheld by a different three-judge 9th Circuit panel.
The president then rewrote his executive order rather than appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court at that time. The new version, designed to better withstand legal scrutiny, named six countries instead of seven — dropping Iraq — and spelled out more of a national security rationale.
It also listed some reasons that travelers from those nations might be granted waivers allowing them into the U.S. despite the policy.
Several states and civil rights groups also challenged the revised ban, saying it remained rooted in discrimination and exceeded the president’s authority.
In March, Judge Watson in Hawaii blocked the new version from taking effect, citing what he called “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus” in Trump’s campaign statements. The 9th Circuit today narrowed Watson’s ruling in some minor ways, allowing the administration to conduct an internal review of its vetting procedures for refugees and visa applicants.