Second Obama-appointed judge blocks Trump’s curbs on U.S. visitors

Carlos Barria | Reuters
President Donald Trump signs a revised executive order for a U.S. travel ban

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A second U.S. federal judge has blocked President Donald Trump’s latest effort to restrict citizens from eight countries from entering the United States, dealing another legal blow to the administration’s third bid to impose travel restrictions.

In a ruling filed overnight, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland said the plaintiffs challenging the policy were likely to succeed in proving that it violated the non-discrimination law “to the extent that it bars entry by immigrants on the basis of nationality.”

Chuang was appointed to the bench in 2013 by Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

Trump’s policy would have taken effect this week but was blocked on Tuesday by a U.S. federal judge in Hawaii in a separate challenge.

Together, the pair of rulings set up a high-stakes battle over the president’s executive authority that is expected to ultimately wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Honolulu on Tuesday U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, also appointed in 2013 by Barack Obama, had previously blocked Trump’s last travel ban in March. In his ruling on Tuesday, Watson said Trump’s latest travel ban violates federal immigration law.

The White House called the rulings flawed.

The open-ended ban, announced last month, targeted people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain government officials from Venezuela. It was the latest version of a policy that had previously targeted six countries identified as “countries of concern” by the State Department but had been restricted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The White House said the policy was derived from investigations at the Department of Homeland Security where officials determined that the countries in question would not provide security information on visitors, and were therefore high-risk.

Unlike the Hawaii ruling, however, the decision by the Maryland judge is limited to individuals without bona fide connection to the United States.

Chuang also said that Trump’s executive order violated the U.S. Constitution’s establishment clause, which prohibits the federal government from assisting a religion, a conclusion that the Hawaii judge did not reach.

In reaching his decision, Chuang cited public statements Trump made during the presidential campaign, prior to his election, in which he touted a “Muslim ban.”

Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest ruling out of Maryland.