ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A judge is weighing a request from a Muslim civil rights group for an even broader injunction against President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban than what is already in place.
Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have issued orders that already block the vast majority of Trump’s revised ban, which would restrict immigration from refugees and from six majority-Muslim countries.
At a hearing Tuesday in Alexandria, lawyers for the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked a judge to issue an injunction blocking the entire executive order. Lawyer Gadeir Abbas said Section 3 of the order, which affects how visa applicants can seek waivers, remains in force.
As a whole, he said, the purpose of the executive order “is a bare and base desire to disfavor Islam and disfavor Muslims.” He said as long as any part of the executive order remains in effect, Muslims are improperly stigmatized in violation of First Amendment protections for religious freedom.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler, who previously served as an attorney for the Trump campaign, acknowledged that provisions of Section 3 are being “built in” to the current process for reviewing visa applications, but said they have no practical effect on how the government issues visas.
“The process is proceeding as normal,” he said.
Judge Anthony Trenga questioned whether Section 3 was in force at all – one reading of the order is that Section 3 merely allowed individuals to seek waivers if they were denied a visa under Section 2 of the ban, which has been placed on hold by the judges in Maryland and Hawaii.
But Abbas said the order gives new, stricter guidance to Customs and Border Protection agents that they should deny entry to the U.S. unless an applicant can prove to the agent’s satisfaction that the denial would create an undue hardship for the would-be traveler, among other conditions.
Trenga questioned throughout the hearing whether there remained a need for him to issue a preliminary injunction given the actions already taken by the Hawaii and Maryland judges. Ultimately, he deferred issuing any ruling at Tuesday’s hearing, and said he will issue a written order at a later date.