Today, a federal appeals court in Virginia will review President Trump’s revised executive order imposing a travel and refugee ban on six countries. The court will determine whether or not the executive order “violates the Religion Clause of the First Amendment, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and 14th Amendments, and the ban on nationality discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas contained in a 65-year-old congressional law.”
While the White House says that the order is as a temporary move which affects national security, critics claim that it’s really about religious discrimination, since the six countries involved are populated mostly by Muslims. The countries are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
Most of the 15 full-time judges who sit on the Richmond-based 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals will be hearing the case in a public oral argument, except for conservative Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson who will likely recuse himself due to the fact that his son-in-law will be arguing the case for the Justice Department.
The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit will review Trump’s order later this month while a nationwide injunction on the existing ban, which was ordered by federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii, is still in effect.
Groups filing lawsuits against the Trump administration include the International Refugee Assistance Project, which represents hundreds of “displaced families from Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and elsewhere.” According to Director Rebecca Heller, “The president’s discriminatory executive order has trapped these vulnerable people in life-threatening conditions.”
In a filing with the appeals court, the Justice Department pointed out that the president’s action was “a temporary suspension of entry that was done to protect national security and makes no mention of religion.”
According to the filing, “Although plaintiffs and others may believe that the national-security risk is insufficient to warrant [the order’s] entry suspension, the President is entitled and obligated by the Constitution and Acts of Congress to weigh those risks himself and to strike a different balance than his predecessors if he deems it appropriate to protect national security.”
Trump’s first travel ban, which he issued a week after taking office, sparked nationwide protests and was swiftly blocked from taking effect.
The revised order, which removed Iraq and Syria from the list of banned countries, came on March 6 and only applies to foreign nationals outside the U.S. who don’t hold a valid visa.
“Unregulated, unvetted travel is not a universal privilege, especially when national security is at stake,” noted Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly at the time.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. has called the order “mean spirited and un-American.”
In the past, presidents including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have used such bans to deny entry to certain refugees and diplomats, affecting people from countries including Iran, Cuba, and North Korea. In addition, the Immigration and Nationality Act, which was passed in 1952, gives the chief executive broad authority.
“Whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may, may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, ” says Section 212 (f) of the law, “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
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