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Judge Hesitant to Issue Injunction on Trump’s Travel Ban 2.0 in Federal Court

posted on: Apr 25, 2017

By: Daniel Gil/Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON- A U.S. District Judge appeared to be hesitant in issuing an injunction on President Trump’s second travel ban after hearing the first oral arguments of UMAA v. Trump in a packed courtroom Friday afternoon.

Judge Tanya Chutkin presided over the hearing and cited the fact that courts from both Hawaii and Maryland had already issued similar bans on Trump’s original executive order and another injunction may cause issues with the separation of powers.

Two Yemeni nationals represented by the Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA), the largest organization of Shi’a Muslims in the United States, argued before Chutkin that Trump’s new travel ban is essentially a watered-down version of Trump’s original ban and violates the 1st and 5th amendments to the Constitution. Specifically, UMAA argued the new order violates the establishment and equal protection clauses which focus on government favoring one religion over another.

The defense, being represented by lawyers from the US Department of State, argued the basis for the ban is national security. They also claimed an injunction on the ban would “take the court into areas where the court is not supposed to go,” because courts have rarely ruled on immigration orders issued by the President.

At the end of the hearing, Chutkin asked both the prosecution and defense for an additional briefing to submit supplementary papers and speak of the practical implementation of their arguments.

Trump’s revised travel ban was issued following the freeze on his controversial original executive order. The new order, issued in March, enacts a 90 day waiting period before nationals from Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia can be issued visas and be subjected to a heavy vetting and screening process. It also halts refugee immigration and freezes applications for refugee status for 120 days. Its focus is on national security as a basis for its implementation, however the context in which it was given is integral to its effect, UMAA argued.

The complaint filed by the UMAA on March 23rd claims, “[The new order] harms the Plaintiffs, and all Muslims living in the United States by subjecting them to hostile treatment under law and by inflicting a damaging stigma upon them based on their religious affiliation.”

They claimed the Yemenis they are representing, along with their families, have suffered “irreparable harm” because of the restrictions the executive order places. In fleeing the civil war in Yemen, they were unable to bring their children with them, two boys of 10 and 11. The ban bars the boys from entering the United States based on their religion, the UMAA disputed, while also violates their right to a speedy trial and places them in danger.

UMAA also claims their organization has suffered harm, a burden which they will likely have to prove for the court to strike down all the clauses targeted for their alleged unconstitutionality. Their organization was forced to put on hold an event for Shi’a Muslims where they could meet with religious officials. The executive order doesn’t allow the religious scholars to enter the country which freezes the organization’s ability to facilitate Shi’a Muslim worship.

“The injunction should be limited to the plaintiffs’ harms,” a lawyer for the defense said.

Cyrus Mehri, a lawyer working on the prosecution, said “there were no surprises from the defense.” He told Arab America he is confident in the case he and his team have laid out.

“I am very pleased with our argument so far and I look forward to responding to [the Judge’s] final set of questions. I am feeling very good, but do feel a sense of urgency to get relief for people in distress.”