President Trump's second attempt at a temporary travel ban targeting majority-Muslim countries goes into effect Thursday — and faces a second round of legal attempts to thwart it.
States from Hawaii to Washington, immigration advocacy groups and private residents have filed lawsuits to block the new ban from going into effect, as happened when Trump issued his first travel ban in late January.
Federal judges will weigh the president's powers to secure the nation from terrorists against the constitutional rights of foreigners in the United States.
Trump's first ban barred citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days, all refugees for 120 days and Syrian citizens indefinitely.
Trump's second ban, signed March 6, temporarily bars citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days. Iraq was removed from the list after its government agreed to enhanced screening of its citizens, and the indefinite ban on Syrians was dropped.
The White House says the ban has been tailored to survive legal scrutiny. In court filings, the Department of Justice argues that the president has broad powers to protect the nation.
Critics see the same illegal moves, dubbing the new order "Muslim Ban 2.0." Lee Gelernt, an ACLU attorney, said the latest order "discriminates on the basis of religion" and "will bring significant hardship to many people inside and outside the country."
The largest legal assault is a lawsuit filed by Washington state and joined by California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon. They argue that the ban will hurt their economies by limiting students and professors who can work and study at state universities, reducing tourism from the Middle East and curbing employment from those countries.
U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle, who halted Trump's first ban, is hearing this lawsuit, too. He gave government lawyers until Tuesday night to file a response. Robart could issue an order immediately after that, or schedule a hearing later this week.
Hawaii has filed its own lawsuit with similar claims that the ban will hurt tourism and residents who have relatives living in the targeted countries. Hawaii is joined by a Muslim imam who claims his family and members of his mosque will be hurt by the ban. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.
Refugee assistance and civil rights groups are challenging the ban in a federal court in Maryland. They are asking a judge to halt the order along with Trump's move to lower the total number of refugees accepted by the U.S. this year from 110,000 to 50,000. Several private Maryland residents with family in the targeted countries are part of that lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang has scheduled a Wednesday hearing.
Federal judges struck down the first order mainly because it banned foreigners who already had legal permanent residence (known as a green card) or valid visas to enter the country.
Some judges expressed concern about religious discrimination, citing Trump's campaign calls for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." They also pointed to a section of the original order that gave immigration preference to religious minorities, including Christians.
The new order removed that section, but legal challenges contend the intent remains and is unconstitutional religious discrimination. Hawaii's suit cites comments by Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, that the new ban has "the same basic policy outcome."
Government attorneys counter that the new order has been stripped of any mention of religion, and urge the judge to focus instead on the national security threat the U.S. faces from terrorists living in the targeted countries.
"Its text and purpose are explicitly religion-neutral, and it no longer grants any preference for victims of religious persecution," they wrote in the Hawaii case.
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