President Donald Trump‘s controversial travel ban has reached the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, with a three-judge panel discussing its constitutionality on Monday, May 15.
Trump first issued a travel ban preventing people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Affected countries included Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia. The ban stirred great controversy and opposition, and a U.S. judge granted emergency stay.
Faced with heavy protests and criticism, Trump then issued a revised order in March, aiming to resolve the legal issues the original ban raised. Judges suspended the revised ban as well, before it could even take effect.
9th Circuit Judges On Trump Travel Ban
On Monday, three 9th Circuit Court judges held an hour-long televised hearing to weigh the constitutionality of Trump’s travel ban, questioning the lawyer defending the ban and pressing the Justice Department to explain why it should be deemed legal.
The three judges, all appointed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, questioned all parties in a bid to determine whether the travel ban was biased against Muslims. Those who firmly oppose the ban, including civil rights groups and the state of Hawaii, argue that both the original and the revised bans discriminate against Muslims.
The government, however, argues that nowhere in the text of the order is any religion specified, therefore it is not discriminatory or biased against Muslims — it’s simply a measure necessary to protect the United States against terrorist attacks.
When a federal judge in Hawaii blocked core portions of the revised ban back in March, Trump cried that it was an “unprecedented judicial overreach.” The three-judge panel now convened to determine whether to reinstate the travel ban.
The Travel Ban Is Neutral
“No one has ever attempted to set aside a law that is neutral on its face and neutral in its operation on the basis of largely campaign trail comments made by a private citizen running for office,” argued Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, who is defending Trump’s travel ban and explaining why it is legal and should go into effect.
Wall was referring to Trump’s previous comments on Muslims, urging the judges to be objective despite what Trump may have said when he was still running for President.
Trump’s ‘Repeated Pattern’
On the other hand, Neal Katyal argued on behalf of the plaintiffs that Trump’s previous comments do illustrate a “repeated pattern” that any unbiased observer would find obvious.
“I think the most important point is if you don’t say all these things, you never wind up with an executive order like this, which is why no president has done that,” Katyal argued. “If you rule for him, you defer to the President in a way that history teaches us is very dangerous. You open the door to so much.”
The Justice Department stands firm on its position that the Trump travel ban aims solely to protect national security, not to discriminate against Muslims.
A group of protesters rallied outside the courtroom in Seattle, waving signs with slogans such as “No ban, no wall” and “The ban is still racist.”
The judges did not mention when they will issue a ruling on the matter.
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