Rejecting arguments from the government that President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban was substantially different from the first one, judges in Hawaii and Maryland blocked the executive order from taking effect as scheduled on Thursday, using the president’s own words as evidence that the order discriminates against Muslims.
The rulings in Hawaii late Wednesday and in Maryland early Thursday were victories for civil liberties groups and advocates for immigrants and refugees, who argued that a temporary ban on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries violated the First Amendment. The Trump administration argued that the ban was intended to protect the United States from terrorism.
In Greenbelt, Maryland, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang – who was appointed by then-president Barack Obama – called Trump’s own statements about barring Muslims from entering the United States “highly relevant.” The second executive order removed a preference for religious minorities from the affected countries, among other changes that the Justice Department argued would address the legal concerns surrounding the first ban, which was also blocked in court.
“Despite these changes, the history of public statements continues to provide a convincing case that the purpose of the Second Executive Order remains the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban,” Chuang said.
The initial ban sparked chaos at U.S. airports and widespread criticism around the world when it was signed in January. It was later blocked by a judge in Washington state, a ruling that was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In Honolulu, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson criticized what he called the “illogic” of the government’s arguments and cited “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus” behind the travel ban. He also noted that while courts should not examine the “veiled psyche” and “secret motives” of government decision-makers, “the remarkable facts at issue here require no such impermissible inquiry.”