Washington: President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban on travelers from six largely Muslim countries is “unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam,” a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, delivering another blow to the policy.
In a 9-4 vote, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond said it examined statements made by Mr. Trump and other administration officials, as well as the presidential proclamation imposing the ban, and concluded that it “second-guesses our nation’s dedication to religious freedom and tolerance”.
The 4th Circuit is the second federal appeals court to rule against the ban. In December, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Mr. Trump exceeded the scope of his authority with the latest ban. The 4th Circuit court upheld a ruling by a federal judge in Maryland who issued an injunction barring enforcement of the ban against people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen who have bona fide relationships with people in the U.S. The U.S. Supreme Court has already agreed to hear the travel ban case in April. In December, the high court said the ban could be fully enforced while appeals made their way through the courts.
In its ruling, the 4th Circuit said the ban has a “much broader deleterious effect” than banning certain foreign nationals. The ban, the court said, “denies the possibility of a complete, intact family to tens of thousands of Americans”.
“On a fundamental level, the Proclamation second-guesses our nation’s dedication to religious freedom and tolerance,” Chief Justice Roger Gregory wrote for the court in the majority opinion.
American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Cecillia Wang, who argued the case before the court, said she was not surprised by the ruling. “The Constitution prohibits government actions hostile to a religion,” Ms. Wang said. The International Refugee Assistance Project, one of the groups challenging the ban, said the policy has had a “devastating impact” on U.S. families waiting to reunite with their family members and foreign students seeking educational opportunities in the U.S.