13 States File Brief to Court Supporting Trump’s Travel Ban

  • GOP-led states support Trump bid to unblock 90-day visa freeze
  • President has authority under Constituion, states contend

Here's What's Different in Trump's New Travel Ban

Texas and a dozen other mostly Republican-led states are throwing their support behind the Trump administration’s temporary ban on new visas for people from six mostly Muslim nations.

President Donald Trump’s revised travel restrictions, now frozen by federal judges, are well within the authority granted to him by Congress and don’t discriminate based on religion, the states said in a court filing Monday.

Trump’s remarks about Islam before the election, including a call for a "total shutdown" on Muslims entering the U.S., shouldn’t matter because his March 6 executive order doesn’t reference religion, the states told the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

“Comments the president made during his campaign for office cannot overcome the executive order’s detailed explanation of its national-security basis," the states said in asking the appeals court to put on hold a lower-court ruling blocking the ban. The appeals court will hear the case on May 8.

President’s Defense

While Texas previously backed the president’s order to halt migration to the U.S. from Syria, Iran, Yemen and three other nations, this is the first time other states have come to the president’s legal defense. Trump’s new travel order replaced a more sweeping Jan. 27 measure that created airport chaos for travelers from the six countries plus Iraq before it was blocked by federal judges.

The revised 90-day ban on approving new visas was also barred, by federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii. A Virginia judge declined to do so.

The states said in their friend-of-the-court brief that Congress gave the president “sweeping” authority over immigration and that Trump’s order doesn’t violate constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

The Richmond-based appeals court on Monday offered to accelerate its review of the case, which would speed it along to the U.S. Supreme Court by skipping the traditional oral argument before three judges in favor of an initial full-court hearing. The parties have until March 30 to decide if they want that accelerated schedule.

The suit before the appeals court was filed by the International Refugee Assistance Project, HIAS, a refugee resettlement group established in the 19th century to aid Eastern European Jews, the Middle East Studies Association of North America and six individuals. Democratic state attorneys general from Hawaii, Washington, Minnesota, New York, Virginia and other states have also brought or supported cases that have so far blocked Trump’s travel ban, illustrating the partisan nature of the travel ban fight.

‘Primary Purpose’

The court order was issued by U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland on March 16 as the president’s revised decree would have taken effect. The Hawaii order was issued the prior evening.

In his ruling, Chuang focused extensively on the reasons why Trump’s first order was blocked and rejected the administration’s claim that modifications in the revised order remedied those flaws. He said, “The national security purpose is not the primary purpose of the travel ban.”

In the Hawaii case, the judge there also cited the president’s comments made while still a candidate. The judge in Alexandria said the order’s language satisfied him that it had a secular purpose and didn’t target Muslims.

The states joining Texas in supporting Trump’s policy included Louisiana and Montana, both led by Democratic governors but with Republican attorneys general. The other states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. Republican Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant also signed on to the filing, though not that state’s attorney general, Democrat Jim Hood.

Representatives for Montana’s governor, Democrat Steve Bullock, and for its Republican attorney general, Tim Fox, did not respond to voicemail and email messages seeking comment on the filing. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, wasn’t notified that the state’s attorney general, a Republican, filed a brief, Richard Carbo, a spokesman for Edwards, said.

“We are currently reviewing it, but won’t have comment until that is done,” he said.

The case is International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, 17-1351, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit (Richmond). The lower court case is International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, 17-cv-361, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).

— With assistance by Kartikay Mehrotra

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