The Virginia-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a lower Court ruling against President Donald Trump’s revised executive order banning entry to the US from six majority-Muslim countries. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has, however, vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.
“Surely the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment yet stands as an untiring sentinel for the protection of one of our most cherished founding principles —that government shall not establish any religious orthodoxy, or favor or disfavor one religion over another. Congress granted the President broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute. It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the President wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation. Therefore, for the reasons that follow, we affirm in substantial part the district court’s issuance of a nationwide preliminary injunction as to Section 2(c) of the challenged Executive Order,” Chief Judge of the Circuit, Roger L. Gregory wrote for the majority, in the 10-3 ruling.
The Court ruled that while the national security interest purpose of the executive orders is, on its face, a valid reason for suspension of entry, it observed that such purpose was “provided in bad faith, as a pretext for its religious purpose”.
The Court then went on to cite comments made by Trump and his aides during the campaign and after the election as evidence that the orders were motivated by “President Trump’s desire to exclude Muslims from the United States”.
“The statements also reveal President Trump’s intended means of effectuating the ban: by targeting majority-Muslim nations instead of Muslims explicitly… We need not probe anyone’s heart of hearts to discover the purpose of EO-2, for President Trump and his aides have explained it on numerous occasions and in no uncertain terms,” the Court further observed.
Citing an earlier decision, the Court thereafter reiterated that “When the government chooses sides on religious issues, the “inevitable result” is “hatred, disrespect and even contempt” towards those who fall on the wrong side of the line,” and upheld the preliminary injunction against the executive orders.
Earlier in January, the Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York had granted an emergency stay, halting deportations under the travel ban. “It is appropriate and just that, pending completion of a hearing before the Court on the merits of the Petition, that the Respondents be enjoined and restrained from the commission of further acts and misconduct in violation of the Constitution as described in the Emergency Motion for Stay of Removal,” U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly had observed.
The stay was granted on petitions filed by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other legal organizations, on behalf of two Iraqis detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. ACLU’s briefing had termed the ban a part of a “widespread pattern applied to many refugees and arriving aliens” in the wake of Trump's executive order.
Subsequently, in February, San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had refused to issue an emergency stay against the temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart.
Read the Opinion here.