Block on Trump's Asylum Ban Upheld by Supreme Court
If politics and religion have anything to do with President Trump's travel ban, then his lawyers were facing a hostile crowd at the en banc panel of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Nine of the 12 justices hearing the case are Democrats. Two Republican appointees recused themselves. That left only three from the president's party in the courtroom, not including his lawyers.
Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall did not get far in the argument before U.S. Circuit Judge Robert King jumped in. The judge challenged the government's position that Trump's anti-Muslim statements had nothing to do with the travel ban.
"That's the most important issue in the whole case," King said, making it clear that the president's campaign statements could doom his travel ban on people coming from six Muslim countries.
The case pending in the Fourth Circuit came up from a federal judge in Maryland, who ruled that the revised travel ban was unconstitutional based on the president's campaign promises to keep Muslims from entering the country. Wall side-stepped the issue, arguing that campaign promises are one thing, governing is another.
"The text [of the executive order] doesn't have to anything to do with religion," Wall said. "Its operation doesn't have anything to do with religion."
Wall insisted that that it was not a ban on Muslims. It was a ban of specific countries -- Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan -- that have Muslim-majority populations.
Rhetoric or Xenophobic?
Omar Jadwat, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said Trump's campaign rhetoric followed him into office. He said the president intentionally targeted Muslims in the unprecedented ban.
"There has never been a multi-country travel ban ordered by the president," he said.
The appeals panel took the matter under submission, and will probably not rule before the Ninth Circuit takes up the same issue at a hearing on May 15. The hearing will be broadcast live on C-SPAN.
In that case, a federal judge in Hawaii first blocked the travel ban. This is the second time the courts have enjoined the president's travel bans.