Appeals court hears testimony on Trump travel ban

Appeals court hears testimony on Trump travel ban
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A Richmond-based federal appeals court grappled Monday with the legality of President Trump’s travel ban, which was blocked by a Maryland district court judge.

The court appeared divided over whether Trump’s statements during the 2016 presidential campaign about blocking Muslims from entering the country should be considered.

That was the reason why the Maryland district judge held up the travel order — a revised version of Trump’s initial plan — which blocked people from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The district court judge found that Trump's comments showed the order was meant to discriminate against Muslims.

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The government is arguing that Trump’s statements should not be considered.

Under legal precedent, Acting Solicitor General of the United States Jeffrey Wall claimed the court cannot look back at Trump’s remarks if there is a legitimate and bona fide reason for the ban.

Judge Henry Floyd, an appointee of President Obama, asked if there is anything other than “willful blindness” that would give the court reason not to consider the statements.

But Judge Paul Niemeyer, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, asked whether there was a limit to how many statements could be considered — or how far back they could go.

“We’re going to look at the taint that this person who signed the order has,” Niemeyer said to American Civil Liberties Union attorney Omar Jadwat, who was representing plaintiffs in the case.

“Can we look at his college speeches? What about his speeches to businessmen about 20 years ago?” Niemeyer asked.

The March order at issue in the case is Trump’s second pass at a travel ban. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate his first executive order after it was blocked by a Washington district court.

In revising the order, Trump removed Iraq from the list of banned counties, removed an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees and eliminated language that gave preference to religious minorities when the refugee program resumed.

The government claims the changes were meant to address the concerns of the 9th Circuit. The court will have its chance to review the changes later this month.

A federal district court in Hawaii also blocked parts of the revised order, and the government will argue its appeal of that decision on May 15.

Jadwat represented the International Refugee Assistance Project and two other groups in addition to six individuals challenging the order.