Travel ban faces scrutiny from judges who blocked it before

Protesters wave signs and chant during a demonstration against President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban outside a federal courthouse in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing President Donald Trump’s third travel ban to take effect — at least for now — has intensified the attention on a legal showdown Wednesday before three judges in Seattle who have been cool to the policy.

Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Ronald Gould, Richard Paez and Michael Hawkins are scheduled to hear arguments in Hawaii’s challenge to the ban, which restricts travel to the United States by residents of six mostly Muslim countries and has been reviled by critics as discriminatory.

The same panel unanimously ruled against the second version of the travel ban, saying the president had not shown that allowing travelers from the listed nations would harm American interests.

The justices urged those courts to rule swiftly but offered no rationale for letting the full ban take effect in the meantime. Many legal experts saw it as sign of the high court’s thinking, one that is likely to color the arguments this week.

The latest version, announced in September, targets about 150 million potential travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, though it allows for some admissions on a case-by-case basis. It also blocks travel by North Koreans along with some Venezuelan government officials and their families, although those parts of the restrictions are not at issue in the courts.

The administration said the latest ban is based on assessments of each country’s security situation and their willingness to share information about travelers. The judges in Hawaii and Maryland found that the ban appears impermissibly discriminatory, has no legitimate national security purpose and violates U.S. immigration law. They blocked it to varying degrees just before it was due to take effect in October.

Further, the government says, courts don’t have the authority to review the president’s decision to exclude foreigners abroad unless Congress authorizes them to, and Congress has provided no such authorization.

Critics of Trump’s travel restrictions insist that they make up the Muslim ban he promised during his campaign, and judges have seized on the president’s public statements on Twitter and elsewhere in finding them unconstitutionally discriminatory.


This week’s arguments arrive as Trump continues to stoke those anti-Islam sentiments. He drew a sharp condemnation from British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office last week when he retweeted a string of inflammatory videos from a fringe British political group purporting to show violence committed by Muslims.

Despite the Supreme Court action Monday, Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which also has fought Trump’s travel restrictions in court, said he’s hopeful the ban will be struck down.

“I’m still optimistic the courts are going to say yes, this is version 3.0, and they might have painted it a little fancier, but it’s still the Muslim ban,” Adams said.